Engineering a new pathway

A RANGE of extra courses, including a new engineering pathway, will be offered in Gippsland next year as Monash University moves to merge with the University of Ballarat.

State Higher Education Minister Peter Hall launched two new projects this week, contributing $4.6 million from the State Government to ventures valued at more than $15 million, tipped to help boost student participation in engineering, information technology, business, professional accounting, geomechanics and geohydrology.

Chief among the minister’s announcements was a new Gippsland industry-led Control and Systems Engineering Pathway Project which will see certificates, diploma and advanced diplomas and a bachelor offered in an effort to “address declining productivity and competitiveness” in Gippsland and Victoria’s manufacturing and related industries.

The project, to be led by Monash, will be run in conjunction with the Gippsland Education Precinct, GippsTAFE and industry partners Lion and Safetech.

Mr Hall said it recognised the complexities of systems used across industries – including processing and packaging, manufacturing, agriculture, timber and forestry and power, mining and resources – and aimed to meet both industry needs and student demand.

Overall the new pathway was a $10.65 million project, bolstered by $2.5 million from the Regional Partnerships Facilitation Fund, Mr Hall said.

It will allow people from “a range of educational backgrounds” to study control and systems engineering.

Mr Hall said industry involvement was vital to the viability of such projects and Lion regional operations director-dairy foods Ken Sanders agreed, saying he expected the partnership would prove mutually beneficial.

Lion donated surplus equipment to education providers, for the practical use of students, and students would undertake project-based learning with the company as part of their course, he said.

Mr Sanders said the partnership would help provide the technological skills his industry required to respond quickly to the “forces of retail”.

Mr Hall also announced a further $2.1 million towards a $4.5 million Higher Education Programs and Pathways Project to widen higher education pathways in Gippsland and Ballarat.

He said the project, to be led by UB, would see pathways in engineering, business administration, criminal justice, midwifery and biotechnology expanded.

Meanwhile, as progress on the new university entity, to be known as Federation University Australia, continues, a further four courses have been planned for 2014.

A Monash statement revealed a new Bachelor of Information Technology, Bachelor of Business (Finance and Investment), Master of Professional Accounting and Master of Geomechanics and Geohydrology, would be offered.

Mr Hall said all projects sought to erode disparities in higher education participation rates between country and metropolitan students and GippsTAFE’s Peter Whitley said the initiatives would lift local aspirations.

UB Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Andrew Smith said he expected the projects would also “make a major contribution” to the Valley’s economic development and he predicted the future “migration” of further courses from UB to Gippsland, including potentially sport science.

Monash Gippsland Pro Vice Chancellor Robin Pollard said there was now “a new era of excitement about the campus”.