Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

The University of New England (UNE) is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2024. One of the core components of Armidale’s history is taking the opportunity to reflect on its past, as well as plan for a bright future in the region.

Playing a significant role in shaping both the local, and national educational landscape, UNE was a pioneer in the higher education sector.

When it was opened in February 1954, it made Australian history as being the first ever university to be formed in a regional area, instead of a capital city.

Starting its life as a “rural outpost” for Syndey University the charge for a regional university was led by Sir Robert Madgwick, who was to become UNE’s first Vice Chancellor, and the enterprising residents of the New England Region. The latter of which raised the funds to get Sir Madgwick’s proposal across the line with the Parliament of the time.

One of UNE’s earliest students, Jill Spilsbury, recounted some of her early experiences in an interview filmed for UNE earlier this year.

Of her time at UNE she said, “We were very young and we grew up together in a magic, safe environment and the lecturers were fantastic.”

Ms Spilsbury went on to have a very long and successful teaching career which brought her full circle back to UNE becoming the Principal of Mary White Residential College between the years of 1985-1997.

She still lives in Armidale, and recently participated in a 70th anniversary panel event for UNE, reflecting on the university’s history between 1954 and 1973.

Whilst fondly remembering the past, the clear focus of UNE’s platinum jubilee celebrations seems to be on drawing focus to their points of difference from other universities and honing these points into what will hopefully continue to make them a success story in the future.

In a statement written by current UNE Vice Chancellor, Professor Chris Moran, he reflects upon UNE’s performance in line with the Universities Accord Final Report released by the Minister for Education, Jason Clare.

“Boosting overall participation and success in higher education for students from regional, rural and remote Australia, including First Australians, was a strong theme in the Report … We have been doing this for 70 years … UNE ranks third nationally in successfully graduating Indigenous students, and we have proven programmes and supports in place to do more,” he writes.

He goes on to write however that more funding is needed to keep things progressing as planned.

“The individuals, communities and economies of regional Australia absolutely need the government to act on the recommendations made in the Report to better fund the work we are already doing.” 

“Just imagine what we could achieve with the opportunities presented by adequate needs-based funding proposed.”

In a video filmed for the 70th anniversary, Professor Moran also said, “We think what’s different about the University of New England should be emphasised; it should be grown.”

“We want to change our university so that through our 70th year we provide the case as to why more students will want to be part of our university, whether they come to our campus or whether we embed into their lives as part-time students, changing their futures as we have for tens of thousands of students already.”

To celebrate the 70th Anniversary, a Platinum Gala Dinner will be held on Saturday 1 June from 5.30pm. All are welcome to this formal event, which is to be held at UNE’s Armidale Campus Bistro, which has been recently refurbished.

Tickets to the gala event are on sale now at $110 per person which includes drinks, canapes and a two-course dinner.  

There will also be another Alumni Session held on the 26th of June, which will reflect on the university’s history between 1974 and 1993.

For more information about the 70th Anniversary of UNE, or to purchase tickets for the Platinum Gala, visit their website.

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