University outreach possible

AN “outreach centre” could be established in Sale as part of the move to hand control of the Monash University Gippsland campus to the University of Ballarat.

Monash vice-chancellor Ed Byrne talked about the outreach centre, offering university courses away from the main campus, during a presentation to Wellington Shire Council on Tuesday night.

Professor Byrne described the proposal as “exciting”.

“Monash University has operated the Churchill campus for several decades, it’s always been a troubled journey. When the university took over the campus it had 8000 students, now there are 3000,” Prof. Byrne said.

“Participation rates are very low in Gippsland and many young people who could go to university in Gippsland are bypassing the region and going to Melbourne campuses.”

Prof. Byrne said moving the Gippsland campus into a regionally-focused university was the best option to address the needs of local industry and the community.

“It’s a real light on the hill option. With energy, vigour and if pursued well, it’ll lead to one of the best regional universities in the country,” Prof. Byrne said.

“The campus at Churchill will grow, it will be a distributed model with outreach centres in Sale and probably the Latrobe Valley.

“The range of courses currently on offer will increase and there will be ambitious plans to increase the number of students very substantially over next few years.”

As part of the change, new courses for Gippsland could include engineering, graphic design and multimedia, human movement and sports science, early childhood, metallurgy and health science.

Monash will continue to run the medical school and jointly staff the research centre at Churchill.

Prof. Byrne said Monash would provide academic and financial support for the new entity with current staff guaranteed employment there.

Current Monash Gippsland students will graduate with a Monash degree.

With community consultation showing general support the region’s two TAFE institutes, industry, most university staff and students, Prof. Byrne said the boards of both universities would need to be satisfied the new entity would be financially stable.

The aim is to have a final decision mid-year before the new entity is formally launched, under a new name, on January 1.

The University of Ballarat Act would need to be amended in State Parliament to enact the change.

There will be an additional consultation process over the name, with Robert Menzies University, Endeavour University and the State University of Victoria among the suggestions.

Monash Gippsland president Robin Pollard said there would be a more flexible admission criteria for the new entity.

Group of Eight universities, such as Monash, have stringent criteria which Prof. Pollard said had inadvertently disadvantaged the development of the Gippsland campus.

“I understand that the University of Ballarat admits only 20 per cent of its students on the basis of ATAR the other students come to that university on principal’s recommendation, direct offer and a host of other means that just about all regional universities employ,” he said.

Wellington Shire Council has given in-principle support for the Monash-Ballarat move.

The position is in contrast to councillors in neighbouring Latrobe City, who unanimously opposed the move last month.

Councillor Darren McCubbin was excited by prospect of an outreach centre in Sale.

“There’s no reason why students in Sale and Maffra and so on shouldn’t get a course connect here locally,” he said.

Cr Patrick McIvor said the University of Ballarat had a strong regional focus with partnerships already existing in Gippsland.

“There are a number of courses already being offered through local TAFEs in partnership with Ballarat Uni,” he said.

“These are courses that Ballarat has proactively partnered with our local TAFE institutions to deliver already, some would have argued it was Monash’s responsibility as a Gippsland campus.

“Ballarat has demonstrated a willingness to contribute to our region that Monash hasn’t been able to.”