For 35 years, UOW College has been providing pathways to university and employment.
In the landscape of global education in Australia, few stories are as compelling as the journey of UOW College. Starting from the humble beginning of the Wollongong English Language Centre in 1988, the College has shaped the lives of thousands of students from 70 countries by providing educational opportunities.
This journey, marked by substantial growth and inspiring stories shows a dedication to fostering success among its students, locally and globally.
For 35 years, UOW College has been providing pathways to university and employment, now including vocational training, English language courses, higher education diplomas, homestay, and study tours. With courses offered across UOW’s campuses from Liverpool in the north to Bega in the south, as well as overseas.
Reflections from past leadership
Julie Renwick, who dedicated 24 years of service to UOW College, served as the General Manager from 2013 to 2019.
“When we first opened in December 1988, the College offered one of the first programs of its kind in Australia, helping international students achieve a foundation in English language so they could continue on to university studies,” she says.
“One of the greatest strengths of the College has been its teachers. Our teachers have been fabulous and are absolutely dedicated to the students.
“We know our students need that extra support to build their confidence and the teaching and professional staff provide that.
“It’s rewarding to see students gain that confidence in themselves and an honour to have a part in helping them reach their full potential.”
Embracing new beginnings
Lu Qing Wang arrived in Wollongong from Beijing with just a single suitcase in 1988.
After securing a role at the College, she dedicated herself to helping international students learn foundation English to prepare them for their university studies.
“I started off with one student from Taiwan,” she recalls.
Over the next 35 years, she taught thousands of students, guiding them as they embarked on their journey towards tertiary education.
“Up until the mid-1990s, we had only international students, "she says.
It was then that the College began offering pathway programs to support students unable to meet the entry requirements for their desired degree. This initiative welcomed local students and contributed to fostering the truly diverse student cohort that exists today.
“The College is like their rock, and supports them all the way through, providing pathways to tertiary education,” she explains.
“The College became part of my life and the people I work with, and the students, part of my family.”
Empowering our students' journeys
Building on a legacy of shaping lives through educational opportunities, the commitment among staff at UOW College is both tangible and deeply ingrained.
“Every single staff member at the College understands that we are changing lives, and we all share a great passion for this,” says Felix Lanceley, current UOW College General Manager
From the dance floor to doctor's office
Molly McKenzie’s journey from dancer to doctor highlights the transformative role UOW College plays in its students' lives.
Despite leaving school early, Molly found a pathway and support within the College.
Reminiscing about her academic journey, she keeps her gratitude no secret.
“The College was a really supportive environment,” she recalls.
Molly's story isn't just about her transition to higher education but also the encouragement she received
“The teachers delivering the courses were very approachable and gave great feedback,” she adds, emphasising the human aspect that makes UOW College.
Bridging cultural divides
For international students like Keval Patel, UOW College was more than a stepping stone to university education, it also helped him to adjust to life in a foreign country.
Keval came from India to complete a Diploma of Engineering at the College.
And it was not just the support he received academically through the College for which Keval is grateful.
Coming straight from India to Australia, he said the College also helped him adjust to the cultural differences between the two countries.
“The teachers were very supportive in helping me understand the culture as well and explaining it,” he says.
Finding family far from home
At 17, Ali Husnain left Pakistan, embracing both the excitement and challenges of studying abroad. His journey was cushioned by the UOW College Homestay program, providing him with a nurturing home environment and cultural introduction to Australia.
“Settling into a new country was daunting,” he recalls.
“The intimate, supportive atmosphere at UOW College was transformative. It prepared me for university,” he says.
Transforming challenges into opportunities
Patrick Mitchell’s story stands as a powerful testament to UOW College’s belief in inclusivity and empowerment.
Living with cerebral palsy, autism, and an intellectual disability, Patrick faced obstacles unknown to most. Yet, his determination, coupled with the College’s supportive vocational program teachers, led him to a fulfilling career with The Disability Trust as a personal trainer.
“At first, I thought it was out of my reach, I had never had to work like I did at UOW College. In the end, I had to find faith in myself and believe in the people who had faith in me,” he says.
Continuing to transform lives through education
Felix Lanceley says although the College continues to expand, the ideals on which it was founded will not change.
“We will continue to offer our students the best opportunities, and a level of support that will help them achieve their goals,” he says.
“The value we place on the student and staff cohort continue to be a focus as we continue to transform lives through education for many years to come.
“Many of our students have gone on to forge exciting and successful careers in industries and cities around the world, and it has been such an honour to help them on their way over the past 35 years.”