Thursday, January 11, 2018

Higher education and Research is Canberra’s Largest Export Industry

The ACT Government is offering $750,000 for projects to develop key sector in Canberra under the Key Capability Area Grants Funding Program.

The sectors identified are: cyber security, renewable energy, space and spatial information, plant and agricultural sciences, healthy and active living and further education (HE). Curiously, while HE is listed last, the ACT Government notes that it is  Canberra largest export earner ($3 B per year) and employs 16,000 people. Such an important industry should perhaps receive higher priority.

The Government comments "The structure of the local further education market is unique with little horizontal competition". I am not sure exactly what is meant, but perhaps it is saying that the different HE institutions in Canberra are not competing with each other for students.

The two largest universities in Canberra are the Australian National University (ANU) and University of Canberra (UC), which do to a large extent cater to different students. One characteristic of the current student market they currently have in common is that both institutions are primarily catering for on-campus students. One area of capability which the ACT Government could help enhance is provision of on-line education, through better training of staff, better software and better business models.

USC Moreton Bay (Artist's impressin)
The ACT Government's investment is a relatively modest, compared to the Moreton Bay Regional Council (MBRC) in Queensland, which has spent $50.5 M on an old paper mill to be converted into a high-tech campus called "The Mill at Moreton Bay". The education services will be provided by USC.  However, unlike MBRC, the ACT already has two established universities. The city center next to ANU is seeing the growth of hi-tech startups, while the ACT Government is investing in health services adjacent to UC.

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