By Matt Male
WHAT are the chances RMIT or Melbourne University would set up shop in Wonthaggi?
Not likely, says the Bass Coast Shire Council.
Year 12 completion rates are low and, according to the council, students in the area who start a university course are less likely than their city peers to complete it.
But what about a hub featuring high-speed internet, tutors and in a school environment?
It wouldn’t just be for one university or one course either – it’d be a collaboration between many and could possibly cater for hundreds of courses via distance education.
It’d likely sit next to the new Wonthaggi Secondary College campus too, forming a huge education precinct that would show off Wonthaggi as a regional hub for education.
It’s “quite an exciting” initiative, says Mayor Cr Pamela Rothfield.
“We’re looking at the new campus as the education precinct, so it would be logical to have it there, but we still need to complete a business case to look at all these things,” she said.
“We’re being realistic. We’re not going to get a Monash University.
“But there are interesting initiatives across the country which we’re studying that we can learn a lot from.”
The council’s sending out officers in one week’s time to Cooma in New South Wales to see how they’ve adopted a similar collaboration model.
It’s worked wonders for the regional area in giving students access to more courses locally.
The council’s serious about bringing more tertiary education to Bass Coast. They’re knocking on the door of the State Government for $300,000 to fund a business case into the issue.
“But to do that, we need to know what we’re asking for; that’s why we’re sending a team to Cooma,” Cr Rothfield says.
“The model we’re looking at would facilitate multiple higher education providers.
“The courses would be mixed mode, but some face-to-face.”
She says the hub would fill in the gaps for courses not covered by existing tertiary providers, such as the Wonthaggi TAFE and Bass Coast Adult Education Centre.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of competing with TAFE, that’s not the intention at all.
“We’re below the state average in Bass Cast for Year 12 completion. Of those students who finish high school and go to university, they’re less likely to finish it.”
In 2016, just over 36 per cent of people in Bass Coast had a Year 12 certificate or equivalent.
It drops further when you look at those who hold a bachelor degree, at just 9.2 per cent.
“It’s not going to just happen to us, we have to chase it and beat the doors down for it,” Cr Rothfield says.
Given council’s track record of ticking off items on its advocacy list – such as almost $150 million in hospital and education upgrades – there are high hopes they’ll be successful in this space too.