Council weighs in on merger

A LATROBE City Council push for Federal Government intervention in the proposed Monash University Gippsland merger with the University of Ballarat is likely to fail.

Council voted on Monday night to write to Federal Tertiary Education Minister Chris Bowen requesting an urgent review of the Monash move.

But a spokeswoman for Mr Bowen yesterday indicated the minister’s involvement would be limited

“This is currently only a proposal, with the universities to consult broadly with stakeholders, including staff, students and local communities,” the spokeswoman said.

“The minister welcomes this process and will take an interest in the consultation and how it affects any final proposal to the Commonwealth.”

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said it was up to locals with a passion for the future of education to take part in the consultation process, not a federal minister.

“I am happy to work with Latrobe City Council to achieve the best possible result. But I don’t believe calling in the federal minister is going to solve any problems,” he said.

The council call was part of a motion by councillor Darrell White to formally “condemn” Monash’s decision.

He described the Monash proposal as a “tragedy that needs to be explained”.

At Monday night’s meeting Cr Christine Sindt reflected on her own family’s history with the university, saying “in some ways Monash is one big family to which we all belong”.

“To imagine we could be cut off does not make sense to me,” she said.

Some councillors encouraged Monash to move on.

“If Monash wants to walk away, then go. We don’t want you here,” Cr Kellie O’Callaghan said.

“It’s about money, it’s about brand, it’s about reputation and they think this campus is going to do them some damage. So go,” she said.

Councillors suggested Ballarat was not an ideal candidate to replace Monash, saying they wanted to attract another “major university”.

Cr Dale Harriman said he feared the University of Ballarat would not draw as many international students as a ‘Group of eight’ university, members of which include Monash, the Australian National University and the University of Melbourne.

Mr Chester said yesterday the University of Ballarat could better suit the region.

“The Monash model hasn’t worked because Monash has had more of a focus on its city-based campuses and campuses into Asia and I’m optimistic that the new regional university can deliver better outcomes than we’ve ever seen before,” he said.

The motion was supported by all councillors except Cr Michael Rossiter.

He said it was “crucial to obtain all the facts before any recorded official condemnation”.

As part of the motion, council will write to Vice Chancellor Ed Byrne requesting a face-to-face meeting.

A spokesman for Mr Byrne said the Vice Chancellor would seek to meet with council as soon as possible in the next few weeks.

The university has encouraged the broader community to take part in the consultation process by visiting