OPINION

Graduates can help transform their world

Over the next few weeks, tens of thousands of undergraduate students across the country will complete their final university exams.

These students have given at least three years to the pursuit of knowledge and will soon emerge into the world ready to move on to the next phase of their lives.

For every one of those students, this is a significant milestone. Receiving a bachelor degree is by any measure an enormous achievement.

At the University of Newcastle, where many of our students come from regional areas, it is a particularly impressive milestone.

Just over 50 per cent of our undergraduate students are the first in their family to go to university - meaning they haven't had a parent, a grandparent or a sibling to give them advice.

About 27 per cent are from low socio-economic backgrounds - meaning they have probably added a significant number of work hours to their week.

Close to four per cent are Indigenous - meaning many have had to leave their communities to attend uni.

Simply by enrolling in university, these people have altered the course of their lives and, by extension, that of their families and communities.

Our university has always sought to educate real, well-rounded problem solvers - not just subject matter experts.

We are committed to addressing, through research and education, some of the great challenges of our time, such as climate action, gender inequality, quality education and the 14 other United Nations sustainable development goals that will help transform the world.

Today's students are tomorrow's leaders. We want our graduates see life through different lenses, not just their own. We want them to know that the pursuit of knowledge doesn't stop when they get their degrees.

We want them to be passionate and prepared to step up at every opportunity.

Simply put, we see it as a critical part of our job, to prepare our students not just to be work-ready, but to be life-ready, ethical and active contributors to the world around them.

It could be said that universities are in the business of higher enlightenment. In the modern world, that's a huge but wonderful responsibility to carry.

To the class of 2019, congratulations on your achievement. We are excited to see where your enlightenment takes you.

Professor Liz Burd is interim deputy vice-chancellor (academic) at University of Newcastle