Gippsland is set to become a leader in the delivery of tertiary education if the recommendations of an expert panel are adopted by the state and federal governments.
Among a number of innovative recommendations the Gippsland Tertiary Education Plan, released today in Moe by Higher Education and Skills Minister Peter Hall, has recommended the establishment of a network of technology enabled learning centres throughout the region.
Bairnsdale, Sale, Traralgon, Churchill, Warragul, Leongatha and Wonthaggi are all named in the report as possible sites for the centres. It is proposed the centres be co-located with existing university or TAFE campuses.
Mr Hall said the establishment of technology enabled learning centres had enormous potential to improve opportunities for Gippslanders.
“With state-of-the-art facilities, Gippsland students could be technologically linked to interact with other students on multiple sites all connected to a lecture delivered from Melbourne or Moscow,” Mr Hall said.
The recommendation is just one coming out of a report commissioned by the Minister to examine ways to identify immediate higher education issues within the region.
“Gippsland faces unique challenges, including a combination of low school retention rates, ageing population, distance and isolation and low higher education participation rates,” Mr Hall said.
Commissioning an expert demographic, economic and educational analysis of the region, chaired by Professor Kwong Lee Dow, Mr Hall said the report provided a holistic overview of needs specific to Gippsland and identified ways to meet these challenges to ensure the region and its people continue to thrive into the future.
Mr Hall said the report and its recommendations represented many ‘firsts’, including the first tertiary education plan for a regional area, the establishment of the first regional Tertiary Education Council – comprising of education and training providers – and the first pilot of technology enabled learning centres.
“The two most frequently raised issues in the submission process were the need for greater connections between tertiary education providers and local industry, and employment in Gippsland,” Mr Hall said.
“The education plan looks to address both these issues with a number of long-term strategies.”
The report also addresses key issues such as developing ways to improve tertiary education and training opportunities within the region, increasing skill levels and retention rates and recognising existing issues in the area.
Among the panel’s 10 key recommendations are:
· establishing a Gippsland Tertiary Education Council to promote collaboration between existing education providers and attract other providers to deliver in areas of skills shortages and course demand;
· that providers across Gippsland establish a common framework and language for pathways; and
· that linkages between schools, industry, tertiary education and
training providers and Local Learning and Employment Networks be increased.
Mr Hall said the panel report also identified industries that were projected to grow in Gippsland.
“In order for industries such as agriculture, essential services, forestry, healthcare and tourism to be catered for into the future, it is important we have a coordinated approach that taps into the strengths of the region and prepares local Gippsland people with the skills they need to take
advantage of this growth,” Mr Hall said.
Mr Hall welcomed a recommendation for greater involvement in schools by tertiary education providers.
“I am pleased the report recommends extension programs from tertiary providers into schools to increase the visibility and understanding of tertiary education among students and help boost the wider community aspirations. I encourage all people with a stake in the future of education
in Gippsland to read the report,” Mr Hall said.
“I would also like to thank Professor Kwong Lee Dow and panel members Dr Michele Allan and John Mitchell for bringing their expertise to bear in proposing a comprehensive plan for the Gippsland region”.
Mr Hall said he was confident the report would also play an important role in addressing similar educational needs in other regional areas.
Mr Hall said he would consider the plan in detail and release a response to the report early next year.
The report is available online at www.skills.vic.gov.au