24 Feb 2020

Queensland's newest university campus set to open north of Brisbane

Queensland's newest university campus is open for O-Week at Petrie, north of Brisbane, and its 1200 inaugural students will attend their first classes from Monday.

There is such pent-up education demand in the fast-growing Moreton Bay region, the University of the Sunshine Coast expects the number of students to triple within three years.

The university's chief operating officer, Scott Snyder said he expected enrolments to reach 10,000 before too long.

Dr Snyder said regional unversities needed catchment areas of about 1 million residents to be viable.

The University of the Sunshine Coast has campuses at Sippy Downs, Caboolture, Gympie and won the public tender in late 2015 to operate the latest university campus at Petrie.

In this combined Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay catchment is the 1 million residents needed to keep the campus operating.

Most students come from local schools and fewer than 24 are international students.

University of Sunshine Coast's brief is to address the problem of Moreton Bay students travelling more than three hours to get to university classes and the very low rate of university participation.

USC's Moreton Bay campus sits right beside the Petrie train station, giving perfect access to a population of 450,000 residents eager to get to a full university.

Dr Snyder puts it this way: "I just think it was easier for universities to work in the metropolitan setting."

"More than 53 per cent of young adults in Brisbane have a degree. When you cross the Pine River it drops to 24 per cent," he said.

"By the time you reach Caboolture it reaches 13 per cent. That was why the Commonwealth government supported the project."

Dr Snyder said all sides of politics supported the new university campus because the need was obvious.

Local federal MP Peter Dutton helped the fledgling university campus get federal cabinet support, Moreton Bay Regional Council acquired the old Petrie paper mill site in 2015, while the Queensland government provided state government land for the first actual university building in a land swap while part of the old Petrie paper mill site was remediated.

While the Petrie paper mill stopped operating in 2013, waste-water treatment continued on the site after it was acquired by Moreton Bay Regional Council in 2015.

Queensland's Department of Environment detected PFAS chemicals flowing into the North Pine Dam and fined the operators, Orana, in 2017.

A subsequent Environment Department human ecological assessment found the low levels of PFAS "indicated that there was no unacceptable health risk for people on the site or nearby".

Next week, 1200 students will begin their choice in 50 degree programs within business, teaching, nursing, engineering, robotics, "mecha-tronics" environmental science, computer science, communications and psychology.

For the first years, USC Petrie will operate as "a university under one roof".

The sole building on the site has 50 rooms for students to be taught, ranging from small consulting rooms to larger collaborative workshops where engineering students can share their ideas on large screens, with a larger screen at the front of the "classroom".

Life drawing classes are held in one of the few classrooms without windows, within the creative industries strand.

There is a traditional auditorium with 460 seats, while upstairs on level two is a 120-seat medical laboratory, simulation hospital wards for nursing students and an engineering teaching space.

Here is a change for the environmentally friendly era.

You cannot buy bottled water on this campus. Instead students are encouraged to use a number of self-filling water stations, which tell you how many plastic bottles you had not sent to landfill - 894 plastic bottles were saved by the time I had a drink.

The train station is 100 metres from the campus front door and there is a 24-hour campus security office right at the front door.

Thankfully the campus contains one thing that will never change at modern universities: 24-hour computer access room for students who need to submit assignments right on deadline.


SOURCE : https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/queensland/queensland-s-newest-university-campus-set-to-open-north-of-brisbane-20200217-p541nr.html

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