I recently visited Catholic universities across USA and found it interesting to compare their educational structure with Australia. A majority of the Catholic universities were small, often with only 6000 -7000 students. At Australian Catholic University these numbers represent the size of the Faculty of Education! ACU has over 18000 students studying across our campuses and of these, approximately 3000 are international students who come from countries like Austria, France, China and Mexico. As with other public universities, ACU is a public university funded by the Australian Government, and like the USA Catholic universities, it is inclusive, that is, open to students and staff from all cultures and beliefs.
ACU has campuses across Australia in Melbourne, Ballarat, North Sydney, Strathfield (Sydney), Canberra and Brisbane. One of our core strengths as a university is that our campuses are essentially small, friendly communities. Unlike the increasingly commercial disposition of educational institutions, staff at ACU strives to nourish and nurture student growth. A strong staff to student ratio translates into more learning opportunities and guidance for our students. Our aim is to develop leaders in the field who are socially responsible and have a critical understanding of their field.
The University provides undergraduate, postgraduate, masters and research options to students in a range of ‘career courses’. For example, the Faculty of Education at ACU offers specialised teacher education courses in early childhood, primary, secondary and postgraduate professional education. Our courses engage students in real situations and provide them with deeper understanding of local and global perspectives. The courses are well-recognised across the industry and more than 80 percent of our graduates are engaged in full-time employment. Our students are testimony to our beliefs and ideologies.
Gabriel Rulewski, a student of the Bachelor of Teaching/Bachelor of Arts explains, “Studying at ACU has given me so many opportunities beyond just studying. I’ve been part of the student association, put on amateur plays, gone on conferences and to University Games. I also went to Rome as part of the performance team for the canonisation of Mary MacKillop, a totally unique experience that would not have been possible at any other university.”
A common misconception amongst people is that our students and staff are essentially from a Catholic background. The fact is that ACU is a proudly Catholic organisation, and as such, we welcome people from all backgrounds and beliefs. Our focus is to build a more equitable and just society, and to foster future leaders committed to these ideals.
For our staff and students, social justice and equity are living concepts which affect their day-to-day lives. Education at ACU is about more than a degree! As a University, ACU strives to ensure that each student has the opportunity to volunteer in the local community and engage in practical situations which prepare them for the future. Our current major commitments in Victoria involve the Homework Club (to help children from a disadvantaged or refugee background in Melbourne), the Ballarat Learning for Life Program (an education-based project aimed at benefiting financially disadvantaged communities in Ballarat), and the Clemente Program (to provide higher education to disadvantaged communities).
ACU has forged strong partnerships with local and national organisations including international universities, Catholic Education Offices and prospective employers. This outreach strengthens the University’s role in the Australian education sector and advances a unique career niche for our students.
I invite you to find out how we can together make our ACU, YOUR ACU.
Professor Marie Emmitt is the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Education at Australian Catholic University which operates across the different campuses. The Faculty of Education is one of the largest faculties of education in Australia. Marie commenced her professional career as an infant teacher and has been in teacher education for many years, initially in literacy teacher education.
Marie is currently a member of the Jesuits Schools Commission, the FCJ and Loreto National Education Board, and chairs the St Mary’s East St Kilda School Board. Marie is committed to providing transformative education that leads to development of professionals who are committed to social justice, personal responsibility and equity for all learners.