Premier's western Sydney address

The following speech was presented at the Premier's Western Sydney Address by Vice-Chancellor of Western Sydney University, Professor Barney Glover.

Welcome to Western Sydney University’s, Parramatta City Campus. My colleagues and I are incredibly proud of this remarkable facility and the already strong connections it has forged with this dynamic and rapidly growing city.

We are honoured today to have the Premier of New South Wales, the Honourable Gladys Berejiklian MP with us at the Peter Shergold Building.

Premier, welcome.

On the topic of ‘strong connections’, this building has a particularly special link with the Premier. The Chancellor and I were very fortunate to have her officially open the facility in May this year.

I’m sure you’ll agree, Premier, it is fantastic to see this campus already fulfilling so much of the promise you outlined on that occasion. May I add, that we are also ready to activate your enrolment should you choose to take up study at a facility – if I remember correctly – you described as “your campus of choice”!

Before I continue, I also acknowledge the many other distinguished guests – political, business and community representatives – who have joined us this morning. It is wonderful to have you here.

This campus is place of ideas-exchange, a place where we promote the importance of evidence, collaboration and rigour in policy development; a place where we take on challenges – regional, national and international – in a reasoned, open and highly engaged manner.

In that spirit, it is fitting that the Premier has chosen this location to present her Government’s plans for ‘Building the Education and Skills Foundation for the Jobs of the Future.’

Naturally, this subject-matter is both literally and figuratively the preoccupation of this University and this campus.

Like government, we are constantly reviewing, refining and optimising our approach to skills development, employment and, increasingly, entrepreneurialism.

That is a foundational exercise for universities. It is core business. But given the level of background noise we confront, we are turning up the volume – so to speak – on this task at the moment.

Phenomena like digital disruption, labour market dislocation and increasing global competition cannot be viewed as happening concurrent to, or apart from the activities of universities. They must inhabit our thinking, our planning and, most importantly, our actions.

To a large extent those imperatives drove our decision to establish this campus. But this is not simply a building that passively responds to disruption. It drives it. It exemplifies it, and recasts (not just what the future of education should be) but the future of work, and the future of quality infrastructure.

The workplace of the future will not be a controlled environment. So, the campus of today cannot be about limits. Quite the opposite. And technology is central.

Rather than being just an attribute or device, technology infuses every element of this building. From the IoT wayfinding and operations technology through to the teaching architecture, the flipped classrooms and AV supported collaboration.

The way we inhabit educational spaces is also changing. And the impact of that change on skills development cannot be understated.

At this campus the traditional borders separating the activities of industry, the community, government and higher education are eschewed.

We share this building with corporate and government tenants. And by, ‘share’ I mean we actively engage, interact and collaborate. In that setting, a student’s immersion in work is not something confined to the end of their studies, it inhabits their entire degree program, from the moment they enrol.

On the back of this approach, our students hit the ground running on graduation. Which is entirely how it should be.

The early successes we’ve had with this building – and the learnings – will be employed at our new Liverpool CBD campus, opening in March next year. And within three-to-four years we will do the same, on an even bigger scale, at Bankstown.

The Liverpool campus will see 3,000 students from day-one, join the already 1,000-strong contingent of Western Sydney University students and researchers in place within the Liverpool Health and Education precinct.

And we are working very closely with the NSW Government and partners in the activation of this precinct as a hub for knowledge jobs and an attractor for local and international investment.

We are doing this in a way that brings distinct thematic focus to equally distinct settings. At Liverpool, the University’s MARCS Institute will bring world-leading robotics and automation expertise to bear. Equally, our ‘Launch Pad’ network of startup incubators, will intensify its presence in the precinct to augment the teaching and research footprint of scale we are rolling out.

The application of these specialisations and initiatives on the ground sends strong signals to investors, employers and services critical in generating precisely the kind of jobs and economic benefit the Premier is committed to.

The role of Government is pivotal in making these ventures a success. And progressive, evidence-based planning is the key.

On that count, I must commend the Premier and the Greater Sydney Commission on getting it right with regard to their connection of jobs, infrastructure, transport and economic imperatives with the traditional dictates of planning.

The Commission’s recent Three Cities plan achieves what many of its antecedent strategies failed to grasp. That is, we need to amplify, connect and support many of considerable strengths we already have across the region rather than simply transplant solutions from elsewhere.

Their re-orientation of Greater Sydney into three distinct but connected spheres is the right approach. Not just because it seeks to balance planning across areas more reflective of the region’s demographic spread. But more because it identifies and supports the growth of thematically distinct specialisations. Doing this gives sites like Westmead, Liverpool and Campbelltown international traction. It puts us in the game rather than just fiddling around the edges.

The University has both directly and indirectly responded to Government’s lead. Our large-scale investments in educational infrastructure at Westmead, Liverpool, Parramatta and Campbelltown – to name only a few sites – has been predicated on bringing major economic, employment and commercial uplift to those centres. That’s good for the region and, when supported by good planning and investment from Government, it’s good for the State.

Building the foundations for the jobs of the future is an exercise already underway. And, if I could touch on just one final example, the urgency is real.

The first plane lands Western Sydney Airport in just nine years time. That is by no means a long time. Certainly not for university research cycles, course development or industry collaborations. And certainly not for Government planning.

That is why, in the context of skills development, training and employment, the securing of industry support is pivotal. The Government’s ability to successfully prosecute that agenda with groups like Northrup Grumman bodes well for the aerotropolis model that has been attached to the airport.

But we must keep the momentum going. And the University is working very closely with Government to achieve that. Initiatives like our Agripark in Hawkesbury are just as important and avionics, defence, engineering and related technologies.

Our partnership with Government in the development of the co-located STEM and Agriculture selective high-school at that campus is an excellent example of that.

Students at that State school will directly access the world-leading greenhouse, environmental and technological research expertise we have concentrated at that site, positioning Western Sydney and NSW as a global leader in food security, argritech and logistics. This is only possible through proximity and connecting infrastructure to the airport.

I could go on, but I won’t. Suffice to say we must maintain the urgency and commitment to skills development. Western Sydney University is committed to that task. And it is clear, by the focus of the Premier’s address today, that her Governmernt is also committed.

On that note, I am delighted to invite the Premier to the stage to address you.

Thank you.


27 November 2017

Media Unit