We became Australia’s 18th university on the first of January, 1975, and it was a huge milestone for the University and the whole region.
UOW grew from a divisional college of the University of NSW that had been originally established in 1951. Autonomy galvanised and energised the University, and it has achieved extraordinary things over the past four decades.
Simple figures tell the story.
In 1975 when Foundation Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Birt began shaping the University we had 2,000 students. Now we have almost 25,000 students in Australia alone, and another 7,000 studying with us in Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. We have three education centres on the South Coast, two in Sydney and one in the Southern Highlands, and our Innovation Campus is a significant research and development precinct that is attracting businesses to Wollongong and generating jobs.
In 1975 we had a modest offering of degree courses. Now we offer more than 470 degrees across a broad range of disciplines, from the pioneering engineering, science, commerce and arts disciplines that the University was built on, to law, medicine and computer sciences.
The University now contributes more than $2 billion annually to the national economy – much of that generated in our home region. So we are a major force for economic development.
In the 1990s the University became very serious about building its research capacity, developing a number of key research strengths ranging from computer sciences, materials engineering, intelligent polymers and superconducters to health sciences, business and humanities.
Since then we have embraced emerging technologies such as biomedical devices, nanotechnology and 3D printing, and opened major research facilities for health and medical sciences, infrastructure planning and sustainable buildings technologies. The Early Start education, training and research centre that will open in 2015 builds on our already strong reputation in that field, and we are a global leader in disciplines as diverse as chemistry and international maritime law.
We have also been consistently ranked among the top universities in Australia for teaching quality, student experience and graduate outcomes over many years. So our students do very well while they are here, and also after they graduate.
We have probably received more accolades than any other Australian university of comparable size, including two Australian University of the Year awards and the inaugural Commonwealth University of the Year in 2006.
The University now contributes more than $2 billion annually to the national economy.
We are currently ranked in the top two per cent of universities in the world on the three major rankings tables, and 22nd in the world for universities that are under 50 years old.
This is an admirable achievement for a university of our size, but we are working very hard to get to the next level. We have never been content to rest on our laurels.
And you, our alumni, have been outstanding ambassadors by being living testament to the quality of our teaching, our research environment and the standards our students aspire to and attain. The University is greatly indebted to our alumni community for this practical demonstration of the qualities of UOW graduates in workplaces across Australia and around the world.
Many alumni also continue to play an active role in their University, and for that we are extremely grateful.
This second edition of our annual alumni magazine, UOW Outlook Magazine, celebrates our alumni and the extraordinary contribution they are making in many different fields.
These are challenging times in Australia’s higher education sector, with a Federal Government agenda for change generating considerable discussion on the best way to offer degrees to students while maintaining the financial sustainability of the sector.
Whatever changes may come into effect, one thing that won’t change is the value of an ongoing relationship between a university and its alumni.
We look forward to building on this relationship in the coming years.