SA Mines and Energy Journal : February-March 2012
FEB/MARCH 2012 SA MINES & ENERGY JOURNAL PROFILE By KATE NASH As a child at school we had a diamond drilling core in the backyard and we've seen mining companies come and go over the years David Travers, charged with opening and managing the University College of London in Adelaide, says the institution is set to play an important role in SA's mining industry. "UCL has a lot to contribute to the growth and development in mining and energy in Australia -- both in terms of contributing to the output of good graduates but also in the publishing of intellectually- leading research, " he says. "We expect as the resources market starts to gather pace in the post-GFC environment, it will be looking to our graduates because they have a primary undergraduate discipline from many of the top universities in the world and a UCL two-year MSc in Energy and Resources. " The Australian campus of the university opened in Adelaide in 2010 - the first time in almost 200 years the UCL has ventured offshore - and produced its first graduates last year. "We are the only dedicated mining and energy Masters course available in Australia. We don't offer this course in London. UCL offers it exclusively here, " Mr Travers says. Twelve students graduated in 2011-- nine after two years of study for a Masters degree in Energy and Resources: Policy and Practice and three with a graduate certificate after studying for a year. Mr Travers, a Flinders University graduate who has just turned 40, grew up on his family's 1400ha wheat and sheep property on Eyre Peninsula before starting in journalism with Fairfax. He went on to spend more than a decade with the State Government, and has worked in Europe, the US and Russia leading government investment, export and migration initiatives. The former Young South Australian of the Year joined UCL in London in 2010 and returned to Adelaide, when he decided to seek new challenges. His father, who insisted his four children gain qualifications outside of farming, now leases out the farms while David's siblings continue with their careers in teaching, nursing and pharmacy. Recognising the need to cultivate mining expertise in SA, establishing UCL's Australian campus in Adelaide is among State government initiatives to promote the mining and energy industries. Santos has made a $10 million contribution and the State Government $4.5 million, on top of the several million dollars it has spent refurbishing the heritage-listed Torrens building in Victoria Square, dubbed the International University Precinct. Mr Travers says UCL is one of only two institutions in Australia offering postgraduate and masters degrees in areas including mining, public policy and executive management and that he is the only non-academic head of a department at the UCL. "This is a very deliberate policy of the University, " he says. "We want our academics to be teaching and publishing research not managing an organisation and raising funds. " Students can enrol at UCL full-time or part-time and take a four-course graduate certificate, an eight-course graduate diploma or the two- year masters' program. Mr Travers says the course, which costs $64,000 for two- year full-time study, attracts students because of the quality of its teaching program; the university's research history ("UCL is the most cited university in Europe"); and UCL's brand reputation. In the first year students take eight month-long subjects -- Economics for Energy and Resources, Energy Technologies, Resource Development, International Law, Project Management, Geopolitics, Energy Conservation and Climate Change . In the course's second year, students are hosted in industry and complete a nine- month research dissertation. "So they aren't sitting in the library and drawing their resources and data sets from historical background but are actually contextualising their research and modelling with up- to-the-minute industry practice and behaviours, " Mr Travers says. The structure of the degree allows remote study although students must attend one week in every four to undertake exams. Teaching is delivered intensively in the first week and students then have three weeks to complete project work and sit an exam in the final week which accounts for 60 per cent of a student's final mark. Overseas students, which account for about half of the student body, came from 19 countries including South Africa, Russia, Romania, Papua New Guinea, India, Nigeria, Chile, Argentina, Canada, the US and Bangladesh. In Australia, there are students in each of the nation's capital cities. One European student had decided to stay to continue studying. "We would expect to see real research results in the next couple of years as we graduate our first PhD student, " Mr Travers says. UCL has a partnership with the University of SA allowing supervision of PhD students. While UCL is the third oldest English university behind Cambridge and Oxford and one of the top five ranked in the world, its brand awareness was strong in Asia but not as strong in Australia. "Part of our challenge is to make Australians more aware of UCL and what we are about, " Mr Travers says. The university had 56 students in 2011 and recently gained approval to double its capacity to 120 students. Four additional courses, including the Political Economy of Oil and Gas, Financing Resource Projects, Water Management and community licences to operate, are being considered for the program, Mr Travers says. "We are already quite a way ahead of where we thought we would be. We're quietly pleased with the progress and are expanding a little, spending $1 million to establish an office of the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory here, " he says. Mr Travers, whose family has been farming on Eyre Peninsula for more than 100 years, says he has first-hand experience of the mining industry. "As a child at school we had a diamond drilling core in the backyard and we've seen mining companies come and go over the years. "Ironically we have a couple of mining leases -- uranium and iron ore - over our properties at the moment. " These days his only direct link to the land is via a vineyard he runs in the State. "I'll get back to it one day but for the moment I'm focused on my work at the UCL. "