The twenty-first century world in whichRMITfinds itself is profoundly different fromthe nineteenth century city in which it began.The broad environment for post-secondaryeducation in the next five years is evident;increasing reliance on universities for theeducation and research that fuelsa knowledge economy and growing demandin our region for that education and research.Added to this, the knowledge economyensures that students come to post-secondaryeducation with the ability to tap a wealth ofeducational resource beyond the classroomand the expectation that they will havemany opportunities to take new directionsand add to any initial educational qualification.This environment is an opportunityfor universities to be more significantand vibrant places, to be an integralpart of the development of thesocieties in which they are located.With these opportunities have come majorchallenges for universities. The knowledgeeconomy and its demands have madeeducation more global and increased thecompetition as educational institutions,established and new, seek to provide forthose demands. The immediate regionremains one with an increasing demand forpost-secondary education, but also a placewith a greater interest in and capacity toprovide for that demand.In Australia, as with many similareconomies, a large proportion of thepopulation now has post-secondaryeducational qualifications. When combinedwith the declining numbers of school-leavers,the landscape of domestic post-secondaryeducation is changing and the type andscale of education demanded with it.To provide the quality of education andresearch that will meet the demands ofa global economy and students with a desireto be part of such a world requires significantinstitutional investment. As public funds tosupport universities decline, Australianuniversities rely more on other sources ofincome, principally fees from students. Thischallenges the ability of the university toeducate the best students no matter wherethey may be and therefore to build theprofessionals, educators and researchersof the future.Australian universities cannot proceedas if an adequate response to internationaldemands is to add an international layer tothe education provided for domestic purposes.Further, there is no reason to suppose that thepattern of internationaland domestic demandwill be aligned in the next five years andthat our responses can proceed as if theyare. Yet, in order to be a vibrant andsignificant part of the world around us andmeet the expectations of our future studentsand society, we must improve our funding inorder to support investment in higher qualityeducation and research.While this environment in which RMITwill find itself is important in framingstrategic direction for the next five years,it is not everything. RMITmust be clearalso about what it is seeking to achievewith the education and research it offers.The dream that education would not beconfined to elites brought RMITinto being.This had two aspects; the range ofeducation provided, which remains in thecontinued offering of higher and vocationaleducation at RMIT, and the focus onpractical, work-relevant, professionaland vocational education.The core of RMIT’s successin education has been to providestudents and industry with focusedoutcomes relevant to industryand professions. The approachhas been one of cultivating mindswhile also building skills,to paraphrase the University’s motto
.This approach remains vital. The majorobjective for many of the students, domesticand international, who seek post-secondaryeducation, is to gain a professional orvocational education that will allow them tomove swiftly to apply themselves to thefields in which they are interested.
1The motto of RMITis “Perita manus, mens exculta” which is translated as “the skilled hand, the civilised mind”.