THE new senior campus of Wonthaggi Secondary College will be up and running by 2020. And if everything goes our way, we could also see a new university campus.
The idea is a central hub set up for anyone who wants to do any course Australia wide. Any university can come and utilise the facilities. Anyone who’s enrolled in a university can use the facilities. They can use it remotely, they can come and do one course, and the universities might send down people to lecture on certain occasions.
A lot of young people in Bass Coast receive offers to go to universities and don’t take up the offers or defer … we’re losing a lot of people at the top end of the educational rankings because it’s just too hard.
Others go off to university and they don’t make it. A lot of country kids get chewed up in the city. They don’t like living in Melbourne in a unit with five or six other people. They give up on university life and come back home. It happens in a lot of regional areas.
A couple of my daughter’s friends cram all their classes into one day and drive home at all hours of the night, running the risk of running off the road. They’re not getting any pleasure out of university. It’s no good for anyone.
It will certainly help our young people if they can continue to live in the area while they study.
We’re modelling ourselves on a program running in Cooma, in NSW. They have a population around 7-8000, similar to Wonthaggi’s. And Cooma has a similar problem. They desperately needed a university because they were leaking their young people from their area, but none of the major universities were interested because they didn’t have the sustainability or population. Cooma figured they were never going to get anywhere so they went for the Country Universities Centre (CUC) model.
Our former CEO Paul Buckley visited Cooma to see it in action. Cooma now has something like 38 universities going through their hub and something like 180 courses. The evidence shows it’s working for Cooma and NSW.
Our council has now entered a memorandum of understanding with CUC, which put together a business case for a Wonthaggi hub at their own expense. We plan to run under the banner of Country Universities Centre Bass Coast. Our steering committee has just held its first meeting. Apart from the council, we’ve got representatives from Bass Coast Health, Federation University, Bass Coast Foundation, local colleges and Regional Government Victoria. It’s incredibly exciting.
The next step is choosing a location. The CEO of CUC, Duncan Taylor, says students don’t want to feel like it’s an extension of school. It has to have its own branding as a university. You don’t just want to make it part of the new school.
We’re looking at a couple of possibilities. Obviously at the old school site when the school moves in 2020; we’re also looking at the possibility of a stand-alone building on the site of the new school but with its own entrance.
CUC now has eight hubs scattered around NSW. It’s proving a popular model. Some of them are almost self-sustainable, but they all needed funding to get started. East Gippsland is looking at a similar model and they got some funding in last year’s round of federal grants for this sort of education program
We’ve put it to Russell Broadbent [Liberal MP for the federal seat of McMillan] and Jessica O’Donnell [the Labor candidate for McMillan]. They’ve both expressed interest. We’re hopeful both sides will continue the initiative.
Bass Coast is hoping for a couple of million dollars to help set up the hub and to sustain it for two or three years until it can become self-sustainable.
We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. We’re really hopeful we can have something up and running by 2020. To see the senior campus open and have a university campus running as well. It’s so exciting. It’s a game changer for our area.
Cr Brett Tessari is Mayor of Bass Coast Shire.