Prospects good for degrees centre

Alicia PereraPilbara News

Strong stakeholder interest and the imminent formation of an advisory committee have the Pilbara in an “excellent” position to establish a universities centre in the model of a successful Geraldton hub within 18 months, enthuiasts say.

Staff from the Geraldton Universities Centre and Durack MHR Melissa Price visited Karratha last Thursday seeking community backing for a potential Pilbara universities centre through $15 million Federal Government funding announced for eight such centres earlier this year.

GUC director Natalie Nelmes said with its Mid West model and a 2016 feasibility study into a PUC, both cited in the Government’s initial funding announcement, staff were keen to get momentum going on a Pilbara centre and had been impressed by the level of interest they had received on their visit.

She said the Federal funding model gave them a timeframe to work towards, with the aim of taking enrolments from as early as mid-2018 if successful, but action needed to start now.

“The level of stakeholder and community interest has really taken off,” she said.

“Certainly having the Federal Government put money up that’s specifically for regional hubs, it really does help to build momentum.

“So that gives the community six months to work out where those (next steps) are coming from, and hence there is a need to really now get the advisory group active.”

A PUC would operate as a supported distance education service in the model of the existing GUC, providing local tutorials and administrative and pastoral support on a central campus for students otherwise taking distance education courses with partner universities.

Karratha remains GUC’s preferred base for a Pilbara centre, with space in the Karratha Quarter the favoured location.

Ms Price said she favoured the Pilbara as one of the best locations for a universities centre because it was an economic hub with a need for more tertiary education.

“Judging by the feedback I have received personally, there is a great need to increase tertiary education opportunities in the Pilbara, and I am excited that a Pilbara universities centre could now be a reality, with Federal Government support,” she said.

“The plan is progressing well, but I have said at every stage of this process that this will not work without significant community support. I still believe that is the case.”

GUC’s major partner is CQUniversity, which has a Pilbara representative. Its staff have previously indicated it would go ahead with its own hub in the Pilbara even if a PUC does not eventuate.

But CQU vice-chancellor Scott Bowman said it remained a strong supporter of a PUC. The uni has 30 enrolled students supported by co-ordinator Sharyn Hearson.

Ms Nelmes said the next steps for progressing a PUC would be to secure funding, secure a facility and develop strategic partnerships with local stakeholders, especially those involved in industry.

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