Students are the single most important resource of our universities

Published: Thursday 27th August 2015

ACU Brisbane Campus 

Message from Associate Vice-Chancellor (Brisbane) Professor Jim Nyland: "Students are the single most important resource for universities." More than two decades have passed since this statement startled the world of higher education (Higgins, 1994). Since then universities’ perceptions of their students have in many cases been successfully incorporated within more responsive underlying university cultures. 

The McAuley at Banyo campus Open Day last month saw an increase of 33 per cent in attendance of prospective students on the previous (record breaking) year, which bodes well for the campus achieving its target of an additional 550 students in 2016, taking our headcount to around 6,000. 

Each successive generation of students has its own character and distinctiveness, and forms of knowledge, learning and support quickly evolve to meet new campus needs and student demands. 

That said, students these days appear to be far more discerning about the overall campus experience they are seeking, the type of learning they are wanting and the choices they are making.  

This was evident at Open Day and I am pleased to say attendees were, to quote one parent, ‘blown away’ by what they experienced.

The Catholic ethos of the University and the high quality character of the Brisbane campus itself are two significant aspects of student life that are appreciated by our current and future students and we have the opportunity to build upon these strengths in order to advance our point of distinction in an era of mass attendance and impersonal handling of students as consumers. 

In a recent research report on student feelings, experience and views on the campus Real learning in the changing university (August, 2015) one student typically said “I like the campus because its small and I feel part of a community”. 

Students viewed the campus as an overwhelmingly positive asset to their lives as students, another saying that “I love the campus, it has beautiful views, the facilities are fantastic… the new building is like a shining new light”. 

Aesthetically many student respondents valued the beauty and tranquillity of the original cloisters whilst the new Saint John Paul II building was a dazzling addition to what was for many thought of as a treasured location. 

The Saint John Paul ll building has recently received its first dazzling Award – the Master Builder’s Housing and Construction Award for Education Facilities over $5 million in Queensland for 2015 – and it is pleasing to hear staff comment on the juxtaposition of its form and function.  To quote one lecturer in Education,

“Recently, I had a weekend class in the JPII building – ground floor, looking out to the chapel and courtyard. I write to tell you what a thoroughly pleasant experience it was. The room was well-equipped: good sized desks, comfy chairs, technology that worked a treat and a nice outlook through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The students, mostly teachers in Catholic schools, enjoyed the experience, too. The unit – at Masters level - was related to educating for social justice. We used the words of John XXIII that are laid out on each axis of the floor of the building (‘guarding the Church’s treasure/pursuing a path to the future’ and ‘not departing from tradition/looking to new conditions and new forms of the modern world’) as a form of paradigm for educating about justice in schools. So, the JPII building itself became a teaching and learning tool for myself and the class. Loved it!”

The new learning environment, it is hoped, will stress the equality of the instrumentalist world of professional practice alongside the need for belonging, connectedness, for self-esteem and personal autonomy. 

In such a way personal fulfilment in and through learning at the McAuley at Banyo campus can be commensurate with progressive social and community life – and this has always been part of our DNA.