Students may no longer have to travel to Adelaide for university study.
The marathon parental exercise of finding accommodation for children and funding an off-campus lifestyle may be replaced by students living at home and attending lectures in Port Pirie.
Central Queensland University, Flinders University and Adelaide University have shown interest in setting up courses at a local campus, possibly at the TAFE college.
The Spencer Gulf Cities Group met educational institutions and community and industry leaders to discuss the venture at the college on Monday.
It hopes the dream could begin with a campus in Port Pirie developing into sites in Port Augusta then Whyalla.
Also interested in the vision are an organisation called Academy, a private education provider, and TAFE SA. The campus would be called the Upper Spencer Gulf Community Tertiary Education Centre, according to Paul Dalby, of Infusion Consulting which is advising the group.
He sees scope for university development here.
“This region has a lower-than-average enrolment in higher education both locally and among those who go to Adelaide to study,” he said.
It was important to have an actual campus in Pirie, the consultant said.
Courses could include arts, eco-tourism, metallurgy, management and education.
Stephen Richter, of SJ Cheesman engineering, attended the meeting and said the project would “help the professions and overall equity of funding”.
He said that while some of his recruits came from Adelaide University, under the possible new regime they would be based here and could work at the firm at the same time. He envisaged physics and engineering degrees being offered.
Mayor John Rohde, whose son Tom is studying in Adelaide, said the suggestion was “well overdue”.
“We have our best and brightest having to go away to secure their higher education qualifications,” he said.
“It makes it difficult financially for parents who have children away – it is hard for regional families.”
“There are 2500 students in the country who access higher education through vocational or tertiary studies.”
Professor Sandy Steacy, of Adelaide University, said the proposal was a “great idea”.
“It would greatly benefit the area,” she said.