It's a triple treat of good news for the development of Taree Universities Campus.
Member for Lyne Dr David Gillespie was joined by board members Dr Alison McIntosh, Graham Brown, Lisa Proctor and Steve Atkins to announce more than $1.5 million has been allocated through the federal government's Regional Universities Centre program to fit-out the campus on level one of the Stacks Finance building on Pulteney Street.
Fellow board member Maurie Stack was absent from the announcement as well as outgoing chairperson Dr John Howard, who has relocated to Sydney for work opportunities.
The campus will be situated in the building, rent free, until at least June 2023. At one stage, MidCoast Council's Taree chambers was earmarked as the site of the campus.
According to Mr Brown, the board's treasurer, a few options were explored and the council space was deemed too big to house the campus in its current form.
"We're very lucky the Stack family have offered us this space free of charge until June 2023," Mr Brown said.
"That gives us time to put our processes in order and make sure we are viable."
Wingham's Donna Ballard has also accepted the role of chief executive. She will start in the coming weeks.(More on Mrs Ballard's appointment and thoughts from Dr McIntosh and Mr Brown will feature in the Times next week.)
It was just 13 months ago when Dr Gillespie announced plans to develop the campus.
Since then, a steering committee created plans to bring the project to life before the board and funding was finalised.
"The interest and passion for this project across the Manning and Great Lakes is well known," Dr Gillespie said.
"It will change the dynamic of tertiary education in this region."
HOW DID WE GET HERE:
Completing tertiary education in your own backyard is music to the ears of locals.
"There are well documented studies which say if you're too far away from your learning centre people will drop out," Dr Gillespie said.
"There are many family members that don't have the financial wherewithal to do that and would prefer to learn while surrounded by family and friends."
University degree programs will be offered through several universities. Degrees in education, business, construction and engineering, nursing and health are on the table, with some expected to get underway in semester one next year.
The board is negotiating with potential university partners, with further announcements on specific courses in the near future.
A mixed-mode teaching and learning model will be used, which includes face-to-face tutorials by academics in Taree, online lectures and industry mentoring workshops.
The Stacks building will provide ample space for tutorial and exam rooms, workshop spaces, computer and video conferencing facilities and student support services.
"The more students that enrol, the better the process will become and over the next two and a half years we will be looking for a permanent home," Mr Brown explained.
"We don't propose it'll be here forever because we can't expect private industry to give you free rent for the rest of the time."
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