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UCL 'running ruler' over local expansion
9 July 2014
9 July 2014
By Andrew Trounson, Higher Education Reporter, The Australian
UNIVERSITY College London’s Australian operation has secured self-accreditation status and is considering expanding its postgraduate offerings beyond resources and energy.
“This is very important for us,” Adelaide-based UCL Australia’s chief executive David Travers said. “We are running our ruler over a couple of things outside energy and resources at the moment.”
Mr Travers declined to comment on what new areas might be under consideration for expansion. But he said UCL was open to pursuing partnerships with Australian universities.
“We have good relations with the Australian university sector and if we want to do anything we would look at opportunities that add value,” he told the HES. But he ruled out any plan to expand beyond the postgraduate student market to target undergraduates, despite the Abbott government’s plans to deregulate commonwealth subsidies for bachelor degrees come 2016. He said he felt the bachelor degree market was already well served with high quality offerings.
Britain-based UCL is a comprehensive research university with a particularly strong presence in the medical and health disciplines and the biosciences, so a move into such areas in Australia wouldn’t come as a surprise.
UCL is rated fourth best university in the world by the QS World Universities Rankings and is rated 21st by both the Academic Ranking of World Universities and the Times Higher Education rankings, which gives it strong pulling power in any new postgraduate area. Following an initial enrolment of 13 students in 2010, it has grown to 88 students, including 10 PhDs.
In addition to securing self-accreditation, UCL also has just completed its re-registration with the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, making it one of the first universities to go through the process in the wake of TEQSA’s moves to reduce red tape. In an encouraging sign for the sector Mr Travers said the process had gone well. He said the regulatory burden had been about 30 per cent less than previously expected. “We were encouraged to have some positive engagement with TEQSA,” he said.
Not surprisingly, Mr Travers supports the Abbott government’s deregulation agenda in higher education but hopes it eventually extends into government funded research. “We hope the government continues its reform agenda,” he said.
UCL Australia has long argued that as a top-ranked research university it should be allowed to compete for research grants. But in a budget environment where research funding beyond medical research is tight, the university sector is unlikely to welcome increased competition. In particular UCL is locked out of Research Training Scheme funding that the budget cut by 10 per cent to save $174 million across three years.
Mr Travers said he doubted the deregulation agenda would be enough to persuade other world-ranked research universities to follow UCL’s lead and set up in Australia unless significant funding were offered. He said the start-up costs otherwise would be prohibitive, noting UCL had made it work because it had South Australian government and corporate financial support. The state is providing UCL with $4.5m worth of support across its first seven years, while Adelaide-based oil and gas major Santos is providing $10m across five years.
The original article can be found on the The Australian website.