Welcoming the recent budget decision to double regional load funding for universities – a move that increases La Trobe’s share from $1.07m to more than $3.7m – Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Johnson, strongly praised the Government’s initiative.
‘It acknowledges that regional communities deserve and should expect high-quality education provision. The Gillard Government is to be commended for this.’
Professor Johnson said the money was in addition to the already generous support received from the Education Investment Fund.
This has resulted in the extension of health education across regional Victoria with the development of a new $73 million facility in Bendigo. Other funding has led to the completion of a new $11m campus in Shepparton.
‘The Government has recognised the contribution of universities such as La Trobe by the manner in which they have supported regional higher education in this budget,’ Professor Johnson said.
La Trobe University is a leading provider of higher education to regional Victorians, educating more than 53% of Victoria’s regional higher education students.
A report by Compelling Economics, commissioned by La Trobe to assess its impact on regional growth, found the University’s campuses also generated a total of almost 3,000 jobs in Bendigo, Shepparton, Albury-Wodonga and Mildura.
The report analysed direct output by the University and the flow-on benefits produced by staff and students at regional campuses, who contributed a total of $282.7 million to the regional cities in which they are located.
Professor Johnson said the long-campaigned-for additional funding delivered by the budget will be used to support and expand University education programs in these areas.
‘La Trobe has demonstrated its world-class status through outstanding results in the recent ERA research rankings, and our degrees are more valued than ever before. This has been reflected in strong student first preferences across many programs,’ he said.
The University plans to seek support from the Education Investment Fund regional funding round to refurbish teaching and research facilities, establish a new Indigenous Student Centre, and collaborative student learning areas at the Bendigo Campus.
‘These will support science and engineering programs which are in high demand in regional Victoria,’ Professor Johnson said. There are also plans to seek funding to develop new facilities to support expansion of the Sports Centre and Physical Education studies programs.
At the Mildura campus, the University needs to develop new collaborative teaching and learning space for the visual arts, graphic design and for nursing laboratories.
Building stronger communities
Professor Johnson said the University’s Compelling Economics report of 2009 found that the Bendigo campus and its students contributed $201.4 m per annum to Bendigo’s Gross Regional Product; Albury-Wodonga contributed $50.3m; Mildura $18.5m and Shepparton $12.5m.
Once flow-on impacts were accounted for, expenditure by the University and its students supported 2,099 jobs in Bendigo; 515 in Albury-Wodonga; 195 in Mildura and 130 in Shepparton.
Each year students spent more than $107 million across the four regional La Trobe campuses; $76.3m in Bendigo; $18.0m in Albury-Wodonga; $6.8min Mildura and $6.6m in Shepparton.
‘The report clearly demonstrates La Trobe’s key role in the regional economies it serves,’ Professor Johnson said.
‘The La Trobe Rural Health School at Bendigo will be able to offer an extra 750 student places, training an additional 200 graduates each year to tackle critical healthcare worker shortages.’
Agricultural and environmental issues
At Albury-Wodonga and Mildura research is carried out into a range of agricultural and environmental issues, giving local communities a voice in important debates about the future of the Murray Darling river system.
Mildura and far north-east Victoria will benefit from an extra 260 extra University places, taking student numbers to around 700. Links with Sunraysia TAFE will also expand significantly.
‘Some 130 local TAFE students, including eight Aboriginal students, have already gone on to complete La Trobe University degrees over the past five years,’ Professor Johnson said.
And Shepparton has progressed with its new $11 million La Trobe campus opened late last year.
‘This modern facility has been enthusiastically embraced by the North East of Victoria as a showcase of regional higher education and reflects La Trobe’s commitment to regional Victoria,’ Professor Johnson said.