MODERN, progressive universities around the world are increasingly focusing on the quality of their engagement with the communities they serve.
Our region has much to gain from the presence of Charles Sturt University. Indeed, Charles Sturt currently contributes $170.4 million to the GRP (gross regional product) of the Bathurst LGA (local government area), and $41.6 million to the Orange LGA.
However, the university also has much to gain from working and integrating more with the community.
Representatives from 10 Australian universities, and Brown University in the United States, came together in Bathurst last week to discuss the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification - an international assessment that allows universities to demonstrate commitment to their communities and to share best practice in the sector.
Charles Sturt University and the University of Technology Sydney are co-leading the Australian pilot of the Carnegie Classification, recognising university contributions to communities beyond traditional measures such as academic rankings.
But what does university engagement with communities actually look like?
Importantly, it is about the exchange of knowledge and resources between the university and the community for mutual benefit.
By "community" we mean industry, businesses, local government, schools, not-for-profit organisations and community groups. Engagement can take many forms - partnerships, industry collaborations, scholarships, events, research.
Charles Sturt has a history of strategic planning for the good of the regional communities it serves.
For example, the School of Dentistry and Health Sciences in Orange was established to address critical regional workforce shortages.
In 2020, the Joint Program of Medicine will welcome its first cohort of 37 students to the Orange campus. Eighty per cent of these medical students will come from regional areas and, as has been proven at other regionally-based medical schools, a much higher percentage of graduates will stay on to establish careers as regional practitioners.
The School of Engineering in Bathurst was also established to address workforce shortages, and now has partnerships with local councils and businesses to help address the workforce shortages in the field of engineering.
A report commissioned by global leader in engineering education and research, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), identified Charles Sturt University as one of the top four emerging engineering courses in the world and has described the Charles Sturt degree as "completely rethinking what engineering educating should look like".
By being part of the Australian pilot of the Carnegie Classification, Charles Sturt will have the opportunity and know-how to improve and increase its civic engagement.
Charles Sturt vice-chancellor Professor Andrew Vann said being a lead university to participate in the first Australian trial of the Carnegie Classification "is an institutional highlight for Charles Sturt University".
He said the process "will lift our standards of community participation and engagement and produce better outcomes for the communities in which we operate - core to the strategic vision of the university".