09.07.2020La Trobe University – COVID-19 and beyond
As Victoria’s only statewide university, La Trobe is uniquely placed to support the nation’s COVID-19 response and help drive its recovery effort.
We’re already making a significant difference for the communities we serve across regional Victoria, in Mebourne’s North and on the national and international stage.
We’re training the next generation of health professionals, lending our Clinical Buildings to local health services, developing new therapies to combat the pandemic, and working with industry partners to produce much-needed PPE and other equipment.
We’ve been doing everything we can to offer practical support to our students. We moved 95 per cent of our subjects online in just one week to minimise disruption to study. We’ve provided more than $12 million in support to students, much of which was raised by an emergency crisis appeal supported by staff, alumni and even some of our students.
La Trobe also has a vital role in helping the economy recover from the pandemic and its flow-on effects. We have, for example, adapted our educational offerings by introducing new short courses and micro-credentials to help those who have lost their jobs to reskill; and provided business leadership and mentoring programs.
Supporting communities through COVID-19
La Trobe University regional campuses have worked with regional health partners to support the local response. We have provided teaching space at Bendigo Hospital to Bendigo Health, donated PPE and medical equipment, assessed local capacity to manufacture ventilators and manufactured face shields with 3D printing. We have also enabled third year nursing students to join local health agencies and have offered them academic credit for their experience.
The La Trobe Business School launched Leaders in Lockdown, with more than 5000 people enlisting to undertake a free online mentoring program, connect with peers and work through COVID-19 leadership challenges. Similarly, our La Trobe Business Accelerator program – in partnership with Investible – is taking 25 local businesses through a 12-week business mentoring program to help transform their operations in response to the pandemic.
We have pivoted our teaching to become an online university in a week and developed new courses to build skills for the future based on government and industry need. The new Re-Entry to Practice Program, for example, will enable nursing professionals to return to the State’s health workforce. And we are now delivering discounted courses in areas of national priority across mental health, digital health, science, health science and disability.
Our researchers are investigating the impacts of the pandemic on society, education, health and wellbeing, and are actively involved in COVID-19 health guidance sharing their expertise with the broader community in the media via the La Trobe Expert Alert.
This focus on impact and engagement is fundamental to La Trobe, and helps to explain why we have been ranked in The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings as fourth in the world (first in Victoria) for our overall contribution to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, including being ranked first in the world for gender equality and second in the word for our contribution to health and wellbeing.
Collaborating for Impact
COVID-19 has highlighted how important it is for universities to ensure that the community benefits from the expert knowledge of the researchers in their laboratories, the teachers in their classrooms, and the professionals in their clinical schools. It is just one of the reasons that La Trobe strives to be an unrivalled partner of choice and works closely with industry partners on research, innovation and digital transformation to solve real-world problems.
The pandemic has accelerated disruption associated with new technologies, making the ‘distance economy’ commonplace and highlighting gaps and shortages in workforce skills. We look forward to working with government, the private sector and other higher education institutions to address the major challenges of our time, and ensure we are training our students for the workforce needs of the new economy.
Like most universities, La Trobe has been severely impacted by the loss of international students, requiring a range of cost saving measures and having significant knock-on impacts on our local economies.
The international education market is Victoria’s top export and reopening to international students when it is safe to do so is crucial to rebuilding Melbourne as a destination of choice for international students.
International students help create new connections and bring our campus culture to life. Through La Trobe’s international student cohort, we have built strong ties with home nations like India, Pakistan, Singapore, China, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. This has brought new partnerships and engagement opportunities for research, cultural collaborations and economic and diplomatic ties.
Rebuilding these connections is vital for the road to recovery for the university sector and also for Melbourne’s reputation as an international city.
A University City for the Future
La Trobe’s plan for recovery is focused on redefining what it means to be a great university in the 21st century. Central to our plan is the University City of the Future, which will transform our 235 hectare Bundoora campus into a leading research and innovation hub. It will be a place for study, work and living, enhancing the environmental values of our unique urban campus and providing outstanding educational experience for students.
The University City of the Future will bring 20,000 jobs to Bundoora and contribute over $5 billion to the economy of Melbourne’s North. We are already on our way, constructing new student accommodation and developing the La Trobe Sports Park into a sports teaching and research hub for the North of Melbourne.
Central to our ambitions is the expansion of La Trobe’s Research and Innovation Precinct to support industry collaborations across focus areas including agriculture, food and environment, digital technologies and health and wellbeing. We would welcome more industry partners to join our University City of the Future and work with us to solve some of the most pressing real-world challenges facing our society.