New uni signals more opportunities

WHEN Gippsland's new university was officially launched this week it was heralded as an entity set to become "one of the most influential multi-campus universities in Australia".

Launching Federation University Australia, an amalgamation of Monash University Gippsland and the University of Ballarat, State Higher Education and Skills Minister Peter Hall said it was expected to generate more than $1 billion annually for Victoria's regional economy.

Mr Hall said the university, to be commonly referred to as FedUni, would have campuses in Gippsland, Ballarat and the Wimmera and would be "the only regional university in Victoria offering higher education, technical and vocational programs as well as research opportunities".

He said there would also be an expansion of online education, distance learning and blended learning.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester recognised there had been some disappointment with Monash's departure from Gippsland but said the launch signalled an "exciting time for the Churchill campus".

He said the region would be "better off" with the new university and its "focus on rural and regional education".

FedUni Vice-Chancellor Professor David Battersby said the new university would offer a "wide range" of new programs and Gippsland students would be able to access engineering, graphic design and multimedia, sports management, early childhood, metallurgy and health science.

He said the new arrangement would provide several hundred programs across many fields of study and "offer more students, more choices, more opportunities and the ability to undertake their studies locally."

Tuesday's launch at Parliament House comes after months of upheaval and uncertainty at the Gippsland campus following an announcement by Monash in February it intended to discard the Gippsland campus it had taken over in 1990 from the Gippsland Institute of Advanced Education. The past seven months have seen local staff express widespread anger over the entity's treatment at the hands of Monash.

Some claimed the 'big eight' university had "stripped the farm" and sold the local asset to the "highest bidder".

Conversely, despite concern over the implications of the loss of Monash's prestigious brand, many others have cautiously welcomed the potential of a new, regionally-focused university.

Numerous staffers told The Express they hoped a partnership with Ballarat University would bring with it more flexibility, with course offerings extended to students with lower ATAR scores and a greater variety of courses.

Professor Battersby has maintained, throughout the transition process, that chief among new opportunities would be the chance to improve "outputs in terms of graduates' employment" by broadening the university's student base. FedUni will take over the Gippsland campus at the beginning of next year.

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