Place-based engagement

Image of AVC Queensland Professor Jim Nyland.

A message from the Associate Vice-Chancellor Queensland Professor Jim Nyland:

In this final week of teaching at the McAuley at Banyo Campus, many of us were treated to the End of Academic Year Mass celebrated by Father Harry Chan our Campus Minister, which allowed for some reflection on just how well (and quickly) this year has gone.  The incredible growth of the campus is intrinsically linked to the transformation of our wider local community and I have included a couple of reflections about our commitment to building place-based communities below (adapted from a Q&A piece that will be published in The Catholic Leader this week)

Can you describe the infrastructure projects that have been completed recently and the projects underway?

Architect’s render of The Mercy Building.

An architect’s render of The Mercy Building on ACU’s McAuley at Banyo campus, due to open May 2018

ACU Brisbane has been through an extensive growth period over the past 5 years with double digit growth each year and 2017 has seen it continue this trend, achieving the status of being the fastest growing university campus in Queensland. This growth has been supported by modern, world-class facilities such as our Saint John Paul II Building and our Student Led Clinic – both are award winning, the former receiving the prestigious international Excellence in Architecture Merit Award run by the Society of Colleges and Universities Planning in association with the American Institute of Architects. Our continued growth has required more infrastructure and buildings to accommodate our academic and local community needs.   The Mercy Building is due for completion in 6 months and will become a major iconic building for the local community in Banyo and its surrounding areas as well as a world class teaching and learning facility for our academic community.  This stunning $32 million infrastructure project will be 5 stories high and 5 000 sqm in size with the majority of the building providing outstanding in-door and outdoor learning areas for our students. However, it will also house a unique roof top terrace ‘the oculus’ which will accommodate community functions from board meetings to cocktail functions offering 360 degree views across the magnificent Brisbane landscape, stretching to the hinterland and out to the sea - from the highest point on campus, which also happens to be the highest point in Banyo!

An architect’s render of the ‘oculus’ in The Mercy Building.

An architect’s render of the ‘oculus’ in The Mercy Building which will accommodate up to 200 people.

Other major capital developments include the creation of our Health Sciences precinct. The first stage being the construction of a medical building that focusses on Nursing, Midwifery, Paramedicine and Science. This building will be complete in time for our new cohorts commencing in Semester 1 of 2018 and has recently been accredited for use. An external learning deck and fantastic gardens will mark this space as a key precinct on our campus.

Can you describe the growth in recent years, and is the growth projected to grow?

Our remarkable growth has included a 21% increase in first preferences this year amongst our undergraduate student body – almost twice that of our nearest competitor. We currently have over 6 600 individually registered students at McAuley at Banyo – making the campus bigger than Bond University in its entirety.  The new enrolment plan will enable the campus to continue to grow over the next five years however at a more moderate pace, forecasting a target of 5624 full time equivalent students by 2023.  This reflects a commitment to provide high quality education and research to a ‘perfect-sized’ student body in Queensland to ensure that our students do not feel like small fish in big ponds, and to allow even our most senior professorial staff the opportunity to get to know and support their students personally – a university campus can lose this once it scales up beyond its capacity.  Our considered enrolment planning over the coming years also reflect a sound approach to strategically managing Queensland’s looming ‘Cliff Year’ in 2019 when only 70% of the average Year 12 cohort is predicted to graduate from all Queensland schools.

What does the university put the growth down to?

Courageous leadership at the highest level, which has embraced government policy to grow the number of young adults with Degrees in Australia to acceptable international standards, coupled with heroic execution of strategy at the local level by an army of academic and professional staff based at Banyo who have worked tirelessly over a period of years to carve out a reputation for excellence among the communities they serve in areas such as health, education, arts, theology, philosophy and business.  ACU Brisbane offers world class courses, research and facilities for students to enjoy. This paired with a serene campus in a good location provides an attractive proposition for potential and current students. Our recent rebranding, ‘Impact through Empathy’, affirms our aspirations and identity to make a difference in the communities we serve.  This has struck a chord with local and regional students who understand that when they choose to attend McAuley at Banyo campus they are opting for a Queensland-based university that provides them with a real and effective learning environment, one that gives them access to academic experts who are Masters in their subject - supported by the very latest technological and innovative learning methods; one that delivers impact through empathy in the communities we strive to serve; one that prepares them for the world of work given our advanced standing with preferred employers; and one that enables them to attend one of the world’s most beautiful and inspiring university campuses.

What opportunities lie in the future for the University?

Maturing into one of the best Catholic Universities in the world is not an easy task however our solid leadership and direction has been pivotal to the continued growth of the University in this direction. Now that we are well established as a world class university in both education and research, the future of the University is very bright. Strengthening our existing key partnerships in health, business and education is essential to our future and that of the wider community. We also have a range of exciting opportunities available to us with new developments on campus, changes in technology and our ability to connect with a wider range of professionals and specialists – all of which will be a catalyst for our student’s experience and development.

Will the University continue to become more and more involved in the wider community surrounding the campus?

Absolutely! There are many opportunities for the community to engage with ACU and vice-versa. We have a number of initiatives that encourage community engagement such as our ‘Kicking Goals Together’ program run out of our Engagement Office that enables refugee groups to play soccer with ACU staff and students and each other in a safe and friendly environment. Our cafes, bars and grounds are open to all as well – many dog walkers enjoy visiting ACU on a daily basis. We also have a library, out-door gymnasium, community event space and are working on a community therapy garden with local community groups too  This University is committed to place-based engagement and I am pleased to say our community is proud of its University and the range of benefits ACU Brisbane continues to bring to Banyo and the surrounding areas.

As we complete our academic year this week can I take this opportunity to thank all my colleagues for their superb contributions towards making 2017 such a momentous year in the history of ACU in Brisbane…and as we look to the end of the calendar year can I be amongst the first to wish you a Merry Christmas.


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