The chance for a bite of funding pie has spiced up efforts to secure a university centre for Goulburn.
It’s the city’s best chance of scoring a tertiary presence, backers say. The council has tried to secure a university campus several times, without success.
But the State Government on the weekend announced $8 million to expand the Country University Model. The model, based on the Cooma University Centre, has educated 175 students since 2013 through links with 28 universities.
It allows them to study remotely, with the support of tutorial rooms and advanced technology. The initiative is also designed to bridge a 3.2 per cent tertiary degree gap between Goulburn Mulwaree and regional NSW.
Mayor Bob Kirk said the council had been working behind the scenes since late last year. It formed a steering committee chaired by Goulburn and District Education Foundation chairman, Guy Milson and including Angella Storrier, David Guthrie and Louise Taylor.
“Cooma’s is a proven model and we’d like to see it picked up here,” Cr Kirk said.
“...This is all big picture stuff at the moment and a lot of detail is to be worked out, but we now have a possible funding source which will allow us to move forward with plans.”
TAFE Illawarra had set in train plans for a similar facility. Likewise, the new Workspace 2580 has forged links with Canberra University and provided study space.
Cr Kirk said the committee had looked at several sites but there were issues to be addressed. The space had to include high-speed internet, video conferencing, tutorial rooms and computer and printing equipment as well as a “university feel” to encourage learning.
Mr Milson confirmed that all options were on the table.
“We’d be hoping to use under-utilised space whether that be commercial premises, government or semi-government,” he said.
The council would facilitate rather than directly fund the centre. In Cooma, its council provided the facility but Snowy Hydro Limited funded its start-up and part of operational costs.
The Goulburn committee is aiming for a 2018 commencement. There is no cost estimate at this stage.
Mr Milson was confident of gaining funding, given the government’s aim. Monetary backing had been the sticking point to date.
“I think it’s a tragedy that our kids have to leave Goulburn to study,” he said.
“Here we are, a city of 24,000 people and we don’t have an online area or an outstation of a uni. It’s just a matter of providing the facility and getting the technology right. It has so many exciting possibilities including the opportunity for mature age people and professionals to up-skill.”
As a strong advocate and supporter of access to quality education, Angella Storrier said she was delighted to be involved in the establishment of a Goulburn University Centre.
“Two of the greatest obstacles to people of any age attending University, or other higher learning facilities, are the tyrannies of distance and cost. And the distance does not have to be hundreds of kilometres,” Mrs Storrier said.
“People say Canberra is only an hour away, but to actually get the car out, drive to a university, find a park, and get to the lecture theatre would probably take at least an hour and 45 minutes. And then there is also the drive home.
She said many families or students could not afford accommodation near a university or the cost of travelling to and from university.
“The option of distance education is great, but studying in isolation from other students is often not as successful or satisfying. And, there can be too many distractions in the home and there may not be a dedicated quiet space to study,” she said.
“For people working full time, or taking time of work to raise children, the option of actually attending university may not exist. The beauty of the University Outreach centres is also in extended access times making it possible to study during the day, evening or weekends.”