Australia’s Blacktown is getting its first university
Blacktown, a multicultural suburb in Western Sydney, is getting its first university campus, thanks to a deal between the Australian Catholic University (ACU) and the local City Council.
First student enrolments will kick off next year with ACU opening a Future Students Information Centre at 22 Main Street in June, while courses for degree and Executive Education will commence February 2021.
The deal was announced earlier this year but was formalised last week when ACU Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Greg Craven and Blacktown City Mayor Tony Bleasdale signed a “Heads of Agreement” at the Blacktown Civic Centre.
“This is a game-changer for tertiary education in Western Sydney and a vital part of Council’s vision for transforming our city,” Bleasdale said, according to Catholic Outlook.
“Our students can now look forward to getting a quality education without having to commute for hours across Sydney.”
The new campus in the Blacktown CBD will be ACU’s ninth overall and is expected to serve some 18,000 students living in the suburb 34km west of the Sydney CBD.
ACU is Australia’s largest provider of graduate teachers and nurses and is ranked in the top 3 percent of universities worldwide. The new campus is expected to spur economic activity across the suburb and aid in efforts to decentralise development and disperse city population.
Australia is commonly referred to as one of the most urbanised countries on the planet. This means the country is no stranger to the effects of urbanisation, which among others include a concentration of the population in its capital cities.
According to UN data, in 2015, some 89.4 percent of the country’s population were living in urban areas. It was estimated then that the figure would rise to 90.6 percent by 2025.
Sydney, for example, is the country’s most populous metropolitan in the country with over five million people. The federal government, however, has plans to settle more migrants in regional areas to prevent areas like Sydney and Melbourne from becoming overcrowded megacities.
When announcing ACU’s Blacktown plans in March, Craven took note of this phenomenon, saying by 2036, half of Sydney’s population were expected to occupy Western Sydney. Yet, he added, only 18 percent of university places are in the area.
“An ACU campus in Blacktown will stand at the cultural and geographical heart of the community. It will put the people first. We will strive to serve Blacktown’s diverse local student body by providing innovative, quality higher education courses as well as state-of-the-art physical spaces for study, recreation and reflection,” Professor Craven said then.
Blacktown businesses are equally excited by the prospects of a university coming to town. Greater Blacktown Business Chamber Vice President Bob Turner said as much in March, pointing out that universities help drive economic activity to the townships they occupy.
“Blacktown City’s 20,000-plus businesses and ACU both win through this partnership. A workforce starts with education and ACU Blacktown will become a valuable contributor providing the young population of Blacktown with new prospects and opportunities,” he said.
It is estimated that more than 54,000 higher education students currently live within 30 minutes of Blacktown. Some 17 percent of ACU students and 5 percent of staff currently travel from the Blacktown area to ACU’s Sydney campuses.
The new campus will first occupy several floors of the council-owned building at 22 Main Street. Occupation for the permanent campus is expected in 2024.