A new beginning

Gippsland’s higher education institution has entered a new era after Monash University Churchill campus’ reign ended after a quarter of a century.

The transition to Federation University was made on 1 January, when Gippsland head of campus Dr Harry Ballis raised the flag at the Gippsland campus.

Dr Ballis said the event happened “once in a lifetime”, and remembered when Monash took over Gippsland Institute of Advanced Education 25 years ago as one of the first staff appointments.

“This is a new beginning for higher education in the Gippsland region,” he said.

“It culminates the preparation that we’ve been putting into planning for the transfer. But it signals the real beginning for the students.”

Dr Ballis said Monash had been a great university, but with priorities or values of a research university – had not been in line with the needs of the region.

“They have been out of sync and what we’re doing is establishing FedUni as an operation that responds both to the educational needs and employment needs of the region.”

FedUni became a new entity following the merger of Monash University Gippsland campus and the University of Ballarat.

Mature age student Hannah Brock received news of her acceptance to nursing at FedUni in December and has already taken part in an orientation day.

“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity, I don’t think I would have been able to study nursing straight out of year 12, now I’m really glad I’ve got the opportunity again as a mature age student with a bit of life experience behind me to really know what I want to study,” Ms Brock said.

Ms Brock said she was not worried by concerns others had voiced in losing a ‘top eight’ university.

“I’m actually excited to go to a new uni because from what I can gather the staffing is still the same, but there is a much greater student support network and I think it will be great for me and probably a lot of other students,” she said.

“I think it’s great that they’ve lowered the entrance scores a little bit to give country kids an opportunity to go to uni, whether they make it in the system or not is up to them, but to have that foot in the door is really good.”

The Gippsland campus, alongside FedUni campuses in Ballarat and the Wimmera, are now busy with the selection processes and enrolling students.

So far, the Gippsland campus has received 250 enrolments with a target of 600, and the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre process yet to be finalised.

High school leaver Elizabeth Mercer believed she had been accepted into FedUni based on her Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank score, though would not receive confirmation until 17 January.

“Most of my friends are going to FedUni, most of them had it as their first preference because they didn’t want to move, so it was convenient for them, they don’t have to go anywhere,” Ms Mercer said.

“Most of us are doing nursing, the other two are doing teaching, I’m very glad that there’s still a back up for me, I would have had to have gone to TAFE or something to get another way into it if there wasn’t.”

Despite some critical voices about the end of Monash Gippsland, Dr Ballis said he had not come across anyone in the community that had said ‘this isn’t the right thing for these students’.

“I’ve been visiting schools and communities right around Gippsland and what is really satisfying is that the community has expressed support for the change and a desire to make this campus a university campus that works for the whole region,” Dr Ballis said.