The University of Canberra is going national, partnering with the fifth biggest TAFE in Australia - Holmesglen Institute of TAFE in Victoria - to become the University of Canberra Melbourne next year.
Vice-chancellor Stephen Parker will today announce the partnership, which will also take the UC brand to Queensland through an agreement with Brisbane's Metropolitan South Institute of TAFE.
From 2013, UC will co-locate with Holmesglen in the first arrangement of its kind in Australia, forming a University of Canberra Melbourne campus in Chadstone.
It will offer 11 degrees, across business, commerce, justice, IT, sport management and design. Two of these degrees - fashion and screen production - will be exported to the Brisbane institute, through its partnership with Holmesglen.
Melbourne students will be able to enrol directly into UCM degrees, or transition from Holmesglen degrees or diplomas.
''Really, this is about the reinvention of the UC,'' Professor Parker said.
Holmesglen chief executive Bruce Mackenzie said the partnership represented a new vision for higher education in Australia - a ''polytechnic university'' model that combined industry-focused learning with an evidence base and the latest advances in research.
''The University of Canberra is highly regarded for its ability to prepare its graduates for their chosen professions,'' Mr Mackenzie said. ''For 12 consecutive years it has received the maximum five stars for graduate employment in the Good Universities Guide.
''It is also rated in the top 10 of Australian universities on the Good Teaching Scale of the Australian Graduate Survey and it has a growing research profile. We are pleased
to be able to work in partnership with the University of Canberra to deliver programs targeted to the needs of the Melbourne, Brisbane and international markets.''
Professor Parker said he had long been an admirer of Holmesglen and of Mr Mackenzie's innovative 30-year leadership of the institute - which has more than 50,000 enrolments across four campuses. Holmesglen offers 600 programs across 11 study areas from bachelor degrees to apprenticeships and short courses.
Professor Parker and Mr Mackenzie want the model to include other TAFEs in other states further down the track.
The UC originally received approval for $26 million through the Commonwealth's Structural Adjustment Fund last year to forge closer ties with the Canberra Institute of Technology, although the formal merger of the institutions was resisted by the CIT and UC had to reapply for funding this year.
Professor Parker said he had reasons to be optimistic the university would receive the funding. However he stressed that ''the business case to partner with Holmesglen is positive in its own right'' and was part of ''big changes'' for the UC.
If the university was successful with its revised SAF bid, Professor Parker said the money would be spread across several priority areas, including strengthening the UC College as a pathway to degrees, increasing UC's national and international profile, and investing in online content.
His vision was for UC to deliver online courses and for students to take part in face-to-face tutorials at partner institutions.
''We can be a truly national university through online learning supplemented by locally supported tutorials, assessment and moderation,'' Professor Parker said. ''We are thinking big and I would like to see, at the end of five years, our reach encompassing as many as 300,000 students.''
Professor Parker said Australian higher education was at a turning point with online education, which allowed institutions to cater to student bodies ''across jurisdictions and across sectors through aligning with vocational providers''.
In the past month, the University of Melbourne, University of Western Australia and University of Queensland have announced their decision to become massive open online course (MOOC) providers, offering free online content as part of a global movement from Harvard, Stanford and MIT in the US.
While UC would continue to invest in its main Bruce campus, Professor Parker said the western model of a strictly campus-based higher education was becoming out-dated, and the UC was already familiar with providing flexible online learning to increasing numbers of students.
''This is a natural, and extremely exciting, extension of this,'' he said.