UTAS answers your campus relocation questions

The Examiner put your questions about the University of Tasmania’s move to Inveresk to Pro Vice-Chancellor David Adams and Northern Transformation Project director James McKee. Pick up Sunday’s Examiner for part two of the interview when concerns about parking and community consultation are answered.

There’s been lots of renovation at the Newnham campus, why not continue those instead of relocating?

Professor Adams: Two or three answers to that in no particular order: Whilst we are transitioning from an old campus to a new campus we do need to keep the investment in the quality of the existing campus because we still have staff and students and many other activities there. That investment will continue as we transition to this campus. We can’t afford to be seen to be reducing the quality of the service or the infrastructure whilst we’re moving. Secondly, and much more importantly, the best universities throughout the world are very different to what we have in Newnham. Newnham’s a 1970s, almost a mass commodity-type educational facility. Modern universities that are fit for purpose – as part of attracting and retaining a greater volume and more diverse range of Tasmanians and international students – have very different characteristics; one of which is they are much closer to the city and much more significant in terms of the vibrancy of the city. At the same time the way people learn has changed quite significantly. The old, big lecture theatre is not the contemporary way of learning. There’s a whole lot of logics about why Newnham is no longer fit for purpose.

Mr McKee: Probably just to put a slightly more functional view of that; Newnham is a 24-hectare site, aside from the AMC, which is staying. It has a current utilisation of about 14 per cent and so in terms of that highest and best use, it’s clearly not being used and the idea that the old model, as David said, where people spent their three years and came into town once a week, has gone. We’re able to now make it much more attractive for students by being close to the city centre and to make much better use of land and see much better outcomes by a higher and better use. 

What is going to happen to the Newnham campus?

Professor Adams: The primary future is likely to be around the expansion of the AMC. The AMC is important to the university and to Tasmania and our future. We also believe there are opportunities for associated expansion, particularly with the potential for a defence precinct. We have very much in mind to expand the AMC as the centrepiece for the future of Newnham.

Will this new site allow for more on-site courses to be offered in Launceston?

Professor Adams: Very much so. Also a greater range of short courses, refresher courses and essentially students. We’re likely to have a much greater number of students but probably not spending as much time on campus. Part of the modern model is that students spend much more time in the workplace, much more time in group work, much more time online and off site. Importantly as part of that, one of the offsites we hope will be around the city, and so that connectivity of the campus to the city becomes really important. So we tend not to talk as much now about the campus, as the precinct. We see what we’re doing as fundamental not just to better learning and research outcomes, but also better for the vibrancy and the revitalisation of City Heart. 

What work is being done to support businesses near the Newnham campus?

Professor Adams: There are two parts to this. One is that the businesses near Newnham will also have opportunities around the potential expansion of the AMC and the defence precinct. If that goes ahead then probably the volume of business activity won’t be significantly different. Most of the Mowbray [and] Newnham businesses are also connected to Inveresk so it’s not as though they would lose their primary markets – the distances between the two are not that great. In terms of opportunities to be engaged with Inveresk more broadly, we’ve already been working with those businesses – around design, construction [and] delivery – that might wish to tender for works as they emerge. 

Mr McKee: Just to add, again, a lot of those businesses rely on students. With the growth targets that we have we will have a whole range of student housing needs from the more higher-end traditional student accommodation but we will certainly have an ongoing need in that more traditional shared house type which is generally what we see at Newnham at the moment. And we expect that most of that will remain at Newnham and perhaps even grow at Newnham because as that grows that’s the obvious place for that end of the market to remain. Critical to that obviously is our connectivity between that and AMC and this site in terms of making it easy for people to move.