Elected reps weigh in on Monash debate

LOCAL elected local representatives have contributed their views to a proposed merger University of Ballarat and Monash University’s Gippsland campus alliance, expressing cautious optimism at the news.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said he hoped in five to 10 years’ time, the community would be able to look back on the proposal and say it was “one of the best things that could have happened”.

“After 10 years of Monash (being in Churchill), it hasn’t been successful, and this is going by (student enrolment) numbers,” Mr Chester said, adding participation in tertiary education among Gippsland students was still poor.

“We have been told for years having a Group of Eight university in the region was enormously important, now this is not going to happen in the future.”

Acknowledging there was still much that needed to be clarified about the proposal, Mr Chester said he had spoken to University of Ballarat Vice Chancellor Professor David Battersby, who understood the reservations of the community.

“I am confident (Professor Battersby) has the best interests of regional students at heart,” he said.

“There is a concern among people that Monash has not acted in good faith, but I believe in giving the benefit of doubt,” he said.

Going forward, Mr Chester said the name of the new institution would be an important symbol of the collaboration, which he understood would be contributed to equally by both universities.

He urged community members to keep an open mind to the proposed alliance.

“In the past, we have felt we have missed out on opportunities,” he said.

“There is a growing awareness tertiary education is an important milestone, and the jobs of tomorrow will require more skilled workers.

Meanwhile, State Member for Morwell Russell Northe said some people in the community had questioned Monash’s intentions in Gippsland “for a long time”.

“In the longer term, the University of Ballarat may be a better fit, but some questions need to be answered, including what happens to staff and their entitlements, students’ qualifications as well as international student enrolments,” Mr Northe said.

“I believe we could end up with a better model (for higher education) going forward; University of Ballarat understands the region and has vested interests here.”