As The Illawarra Connection prepares to start a new year as the region’s peak networking group it is an opportunity to get an update on one of its founding supporters.
University of Wollongong vice chancellor Professor Paul Wellings has worked internationally but said he had never seen such a proactive body of business, academic, civic, religious and political leaders coming together so productively on a regular basis.
UOW has been active member for over 25 years which has provided TIC an opportunity to highlight many of its achievements and contributions to the city and region that could otherwise easily be taken for granted.
Prof Wellings said 2018 had been a particularly significant year.
One that saw approval by the new regulator for universities.
“We were not only one of the first universities to go through re-accreditation against the new standards,” he said.
“We became the first university to fly through that without any conditions.
“That is a license to operate for another seven years from the government without conditions imposed on us. That is a really big deal”.
Prof Wellings said there were many global measuring sticks on how good universities were on research.
But there is a new one focusing on teaching excellence. And Wollongong is the only Australian university to make it through that process twice in successive years.
“Part of our core business is teaching undergraduates and having external validation of that kind to say what is happening in Wollongong is worth the rest of the world looking at, is something we should be proud of as a community”.
In 2018 UOW celebrated 25 years in Dubai. More recently that has been followed with the opening of a campus in Hong Kong and last year’s acquisition in Malaysia.
“That triangle of the Middle East, Hong Kong/China and South East Asia through Malaysia is a very unique space that Wollongong is now in with three major campuses,” Prof Wellings said.
“We are going to have 18,000 students overseas as well as all the students here”.
In the research area construction has begun of a new Molecular Horizons building that will host one of only a few machines of its kind in the world that will help design therapies and drugs.
“It will be finished by the end of this year. The actual microscope is up at ANSTO and already operating and doing some truly amazing research.”
Early 2018 saw the announcement of the new Health and Wellbeing Precinct on the Innovation Campus with Lendlease.
“If we build the whole thing it is a $500 million investment which will bring together retirement living, aged care provision and technologies that may be needed near the end of life. And a training facility.”
Prof Wellings said partnerships were also very important to the university and 2018 set a record with $110 million in research income.
In the Shoalhaven there was the opening of a new MIND the GaP facility with the help of Better Regions funding and Shoalhaven Council that will provide support to counselling services around youth suicide and suicide in rural locations.
In Wollongong UOW has been funded to a open rail track infrastructure facility that will look at the design of rail systems for the future.
And Prof Wellings said the large Ramsay Philanthropic donation will see a curriculum completed soon followed by the design of a scholarship program.
“We have had feedback from eminent people all over the world basically to say the way that has been designed is world’s best practice. For Wollongong it is a massive opportunity because it is transformational and we will be a destination for students who want to do philosophy. So it will be a national centre”.
2018 was also a year of more collaboration with an alliance with Newcastle and UNSW focused on how to combine the capacity of all three universities to solve major problems for NSW.
And by 2020 the new Tottenham Hotspur Academy will open for football players who want to do a degree while they are training.