CQUniversity Vice-Chancellor discusses the merger's approval

THE below is an opinion piece by Professor Scott Bowman, Vice-Chancellor and President, CQUniversity Australia in its full form.


CQ University VC Scott Bowman. Photo Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin.
CQ University VC Scott Bowman. Photo Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin. Chris Ison

After three long years of intense negotiations with two state Governments, Central Queensland finally got the approval this week to break from the rest of the herd and adopt a new model of post-school education. 

This region is home to one of the fastest growing universities in Australia and the second largest TAFE institute in all of the state.

Both of them are fantastically strong, vibrant institutions driven by remarkably talented staff.

Both Institutions have had a long, proud history of strengthening our communities with generations of highly skilled graduates that are second to none.

And now, finally, both institutions can merge together to create one of the most coordinated, holistic and innovative education and training providers in the country.

People often ask myself and Gary Kinnon, the Director of CQ TAFE, why this region needs the university and the TAFE to merge.

I've always felt, and I know Gary agrees, that Central Queensland is a region unlike any other in Australia, and we are at a time unlike any other, with opportunities and challenges being thrown at us that only come along once in a lifetime.

The communities, industries, economies, workforce pressures, skills needs, environments and lifestyle options of Central Queensland cannot be found anywhere else in the state, yet for decades we've had the same cookie-cutter post-school education options as every other region. But not for much longer.

The merger of CQUniversity and CQ TAFE will unlock the region's potential to respond more quickly and effectively to the education and training demands in our own backyard.

Currently we have a TAFE and a University, both full of great staff, both with fantastic facilities, both competing for the same school leavers and students, both trying to skill the local workforce, but with no real coordination or strategy between them because they are working in relative isolation.

And it is the students that are missing out.

This idea of academic apartheid - where you are either on a 'TAFE' or 'University' path for life - has held this region back from realising its full potential.   

We are about to blur that line between TAFE and University to the point where our students don't even realise they are drifting back and forth between the two.

Our students will get to experience the best elements of each institution - from award-winning teachers to state-of-the-art facilities to real, tangible industry links - with the goal of producing the most holistically skilled, well-rounded and employable graduates in the country.

I'm talking about electrical engineers with practical TAFE competencies built into their degree; TAFE-trained enrolled nurses who don't think twice about returning to their alma mater to train further to be a registered nurse; and sports science students with a personal trainer qualification built into the first year of their degree so they can work in the industry while they study, rather than at a pub or cafe. 

I want us to train the best welders, fitters, electricians, teachers, nurses and accountants that we possibly can.

And I want this region to celebrate the graduation of a diesel mechanic at a ceremony alongside the graduation of a podiatrist, because Central Queensland is in desperate need of both.