Expansion for regional university education

Posted: Friday 22 February 2013

The Vice-Chancellors of Monash University and the University of Ballarat, Professors Ed Byrne and David Battersby, announced today that the Gippsland campus of Monash University and the University of Ballarat will join forces to investigate forming an expanded regionally focused university. 

Minister for Higher Education and Skills, The Hon. Peter Hall, MLC, has offered his in-principle support for the proposition which he said would benefit students across the state, giving them access to a wider range of courses and to support services that are tailored to the needs of regional students.

The Vice-Chancellors said that this was an exciting opportunity to make a difference in the delivery of higher education to regional communities in Victoria. The proposition would support the economic development of the Gippsland and Ballarat/Wimmera regions in the years ahead by ensuring there would be a thriving broad-based regional university that facilitates learning through education and research, and which provides the foundation for regional growth and competitiveness.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Ed Byrne said that it was well known that Monash University had been looking at ways to enable the Gippsland campus to better meet the needs of its communities, including improving university participation rates regionally.

“Towards the end of 2012 the suggestion emerged to join the Gippsland campus with the University of Ballarat to form an expanded regionally focused university. This flowed from the shared desire of the two universities to improve the delivery of regional higher education,” Professor Byrne said.

“It is my belief that by bringing together the expertise of both institutions, the expanded university would be able to grow into one of Australia’s best regional higher education providers.”

University of Ballarat Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Battersby, said the new approach would allow the bringing together of skills and expertise developed at both Gippsland and Ballarat to the benefit of all the communities that they serve.

“The University of Ballarat has extensive experience in delivering in-person support to students studying across a widely dispersed region, while the Gippsland campus has considerable expertise in delivering distance education and online learning,” Professor Battersby said.

The new arrangement would also enable the range of courses being offered by the University of Ballarat and the Gippsland campus to be expanded by drawing on the knowledge and expertise residing within them. Each also has considerable research expertise and industry links, which are regionally focused.  Being able to join and extend expertise in these areas will enable improved, more tailored options for students, industry and community development in regional Victoria.This will be explored in detail and be a critical part of being able to develop a successful transition plan should the proposition proceed.

New courses for Gippsland could include engineering, graphic design and multimedia, human movement and sports science, early childhood, metallurgy and health science.

While for the Ballarat and Wimmera regions new courses could include human resource management, criminal justice and criminology, bioscience, geomechanics, geohydrology and midwifery.

Under the proposition, the Gippsland campus would also be able to pursue greater flexibility in entry requirements and could respond more quickly and effectively to the demands of the local community, tailoring education to better meet the needs of students who live, work and engage in a regional setting. Continued development of close and effective links with the regional TAFEs will be an important part of this, but the Gippsland campus would continue as a dedicated higher education campus.

Professor Byrne said that if the proposition moved forward to implementation Monash University would continue to be involved at Gippsland throughout the transition phase and beyond.

“While the exact contours of our ongoing involvement would be determined following consultation with stakeholders, Monash will continue to be active in Gippsland through the teach-out of existing Monash courses, the continuing presence of the medical school, which will remain part of Monash University, and through Monash retaining an active research presence on the campus,” Professor Byrne said.

Both universities are aware of the need for and are keen to provide certainty about future arrangements as quickly as possible.  Ideally, any new model would take effect from 1 January 2014, although that would depend on all necessary processes being completed in a timely manner.

The proposition will require formal approval by both State and Federal Governments and TEQSA if it is to proceed.  Approval will only be sought following completion of due diligence work by both universities and consultations with staff, students and key stakeholders.  This work will start immediately and be undertaken by a senior group drawn from both universities, and will include staff of the Gippsland campus.  The group will be jointly led by the newly appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor and President of the Gippsland campus, Professor Robin Pollard, and the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ballarat, Ms Rowena Coutts.                                         

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Samantha Blair, Media & Communications, Monash University + 61 3 9903 4840 or Le-anne O’Brien, Public Relations Manager, University of Ballarat  +61 3 53 279637 or 0419 553 608

Contact Matthew Freeman
Senior Advisor, Media and Government Relations
03 5327 9510