2004 - 2008
The year 2004 presented an opportunity to celebrate the University's tenth anniversary. The celebrations included an ecumenical service and an evening concert at which the University awarded an Honorary Doctorate to the NSW Governor Professor Marie Bashir. The high level of community support for the University was demonstrated by the attendance and participation in these celebrations. For a young university, the many expressions of acknowledgement of achievement were especially gratifying.
The progressive implementation in 2004 of the provisions of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 enabled the University to bid for additional Commonwealth supported places to meet burgeoning student demand, especially at the Coffs Harbour and Tweed Gold Coast campuses. The bid was successful, with an additional 295 student places allocated in 2005. A survey by Careers Australia (2006) showed Southern Cross University ranked in the top 10 universities in the country for overall graduate satisfaction in 11 out of the 16 fields of undergraduate study measured.
Research efforts began to intensify, particularly around Cooperative Research Centres, and the University was an active participant in eight CRCs. In two cases, the CRC for National Plant Biosecurity and the CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment, the University was the Education Program Leader in addition to its role as a research provider. The University established the Aged Services Learning and Research Centre, based at the Coffs Harbour campus, to focus on the needs of a coastal region experiencing an influx of retirees. In 2006 it secured just under $1.3 million in ARC Linkage and Discovery grants and matching industry funding for research and more than $1.6 million in external research grants. Another $500,000 was secured through the federal government's Sustainable Regions Program to support a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). When ARC grants for 2006 were announced, the University received its then best-ever result with more than $1.5 million awarded.
The establishment of the Office of Regional Engagement in 2005 gave a formal structure to the University's commitment to foster partnerships that enhanced the economic, social and cultural prosperity and environmental sustainability of the Mid North and North coast regions of NSW. In conjunction with this outreach, a number of mechanisms brought the community onto the campuses, including programs such as 'RRISK' - Reduce Risk, Increase Student Knowledge - aimed at high school students. The University increasingly played a key role in the lives of its communities, and by 2006 was determined as generating more than $270 million and 2,500 jobs. Reaching out to its communities, the University developed a Regional Plan (2006) and formalised relationships with five local councils under memoranda of understanding.
At our campuses, a number of initiatives reflected our commitment to providing staff and students with state-of-the-art teaching and research facilities. SCU signed up with Australia's Academic and Research Network (AARNet), providing Lismore, Tweed Gold Coast and Coffs Harbour with the same network capacity as metropolitan universities and better equipping it for distance education and high speed communication.
Physical facilities continued to develop with the completion of the new Nursing and Teaching building with state of the art clinical laboratories at Coffs Harbour campus, and extension to M block also at Coffs Harbour.
For some years, options had been explored for the next phase of the University's development, hampered by the constraints of the existing location at Tweed Heads on the NSW-Queensland border. In 2007 the decision was taken to expand the University's strong east coast presence with a new campus at the southern end of the Gold Coast, a region experiencing strong growth yet under-served by the tertiary education sector. Master planning of the new campus commenced and by 2008 construction was well under way on the 5.3 hectare, high profile site, at the southern end of the Gold Coast. The University also received $3 million from the Voluntary Student Unionism Transition Fund for Sporting and Recreational Facilities to build sports and recreation centre at Coffs Harbour campus, and a leisure centre including aquatic facilities at Lismore campus.