Over the past week many of you would have read and heard things about the future of higher education in Warrnambool.
Tonight I’ll be joining a community forum at the Lighthouse Theatre to speak about the challenges and the options Deakin is considering for the future of higher education in the region.
As proud graduates of our Warrnambool Campus, I’m writing today to update you directly.
Many of you would know that student enrolments at Warrnambool have declined to 872, a 40 per cent drop since 2011, when the cap on university places was removed as a consequence of Federal Government legislation.
We have worked hard since then to improve student numbers and neutralise the impact of the demand-driven funding system.
Deakin has invested $45 million improving infrastructure, venues and residential accommodation at its Warrnambool Campus.
More than $5 million was invested in marine science, including a new, state-of-the-art research vessel.
We added a third year to our law degree and we upgraded our nursing simulation equipment to the best in the University.
We also continued to increase spending on marketing and advertising.
It is important to also understand that around 40 per cent of Warrnambool students receive some form of scholarship for studies or accommodation, providing opportunity for those who otherwise might not have had the chance to go to university.
No stone has been left unturned but our efforts, and those of the community, have simply not translated into enrolments.
There are three insurmountable issues preventing growth.
Firstly, Warrnambool has an ATAR cut off of 50. Around 67 per cent of students come from the local region, yet many other school leavers do not achieve the required ATAR required.
Rather than enter a pathway program as a stepping stone for eligibility to Deakin, those students are choosing to go to another university.
Second, many school leavers who do achieve the required ATAR are leaving home to study beyond Warrnambool, at our Burwood or Geelong campuses, or at other universities.
Many students drive straight past the gates of Warrnambool to another campus or university to study the courses we offer at Warrnambool.
Thirdly, our industry engagement confirmed a growing gap between what Deakin offers, bachelor degrees through to PhDs, and the changing needs of the region’s students, businesses and the broader community, where the desire is mostly for certificate and diploma qualifications at the sub degree level.
We don’t have those pathways for students to consider as an entry at Deakin and other universities are simply accepting those students directly into a degree.
As a result of these issues, Deakin’s trademark student experience, (Deakin is number one in Victoria for student satisfaction) is compromised at our Warrnambool Campus and so we are looking for a new provider who is better able to meet the higher education needs of students and businesses in the region.
While we’re in discussions with a range of people and organisations, there is no deal on the table. However, I can assure you that we’re working on it and I hope to share more information with you soon.
In the meantime, we are doing everything we can to deliver a premium learning experience for our current students, who of course remain our top priority.
For those of you who can, I encourage you to attend this evening’s forum to contribute to this discussion. Your first-hand experience would be warmly welcomed.
For the many of you now based beyond the south west region, please do email me any ideas or comments you may have.
Many of you would have been updated on the future of the Warrnambool Campus via email or mail.
If you have not received an email or letter, please contact the Alumni Relations Office to update your contact details.
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