The Uni Hub Spencer Gulf has been a long time coming but an opportunity that makes the wait worth it! From 2019 students can start on tertiary pathways from the region.
It was 2012 when tertiary-level education was recognised as a need in the region to be able to keep our area strong and make the most of new opportunities. At this time, the South Australia Centre for Economic Studies highlighted that education was the foundation for growth, innovation and entrepreneurship in the Spencer Gulf.
By 2014, Strategic Economic Solutions took things a step further by saying that lack of scientific and technical skills in the region was a barrier to growth. With these findings, the Upper Spencer Gulf Education Committee investigated education models that would benefit the region.
In 2018, The funding was approved, resources appointed and education delivery partnerships formalised with Flinders University, CQUniversity, Adelaide University and TAFE SA.
Initial funding of $1.1 million was announced in April from the Federal Government’s Upper Spencer Gulf Regional Jobs and Investment Package. In addition, The Upper Spencer Gulf Common Purpose Group was able to secure anreceived another $1.9 million in November, thanks to a federal regional study hubs program grant. The aim of the program is to help country students to stay in their communities while undertaking university study.
The Port Pirie campus will help form a national network of 16 regional study centres that will provide study spaces, internet access, video-conferencing, administrative, academic and tutorial support for regional students studying locally with UniHub’s university partners.
The university's board chairwoman, Dr Jen Cleary, said the funding would support the hub to "grow our own" skilled workforce in the Upper Spencer Gulf.
“The area is entering a significant economic transition with rapid emergence of new growth in industries such as renewable energy, defence, mining, arid agriculture and tourism,” she said.
“It is important that we grow a skilled workforce from the region to ensure a competitive, vibrant and self-reliant economy and community.”
“The UniHub means school leavers and those already in the workforce seeking to study now have a locally-supported option for tertiary education without having to relocate to the city or go it alone online.”
Dr Cleary said the Uni Hub was based on a Community Owned Tertiary Education Centre (COTEC) model – where facilities are owned and operated within the community, rather than by any single education institution. Local staff provide operational support such as student enrolment, tutorials and administration, along with partnership development.
She said the COTEC model had grown in Australia in recent years as a result of increasing centralisation of higher education and decision-making in bigger cities.
“There are similar tertiary study centres based in smaller, regional centres right across Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland," she said.
"They have shown that retention and graduation rates for students who have access to local face-to-face support is well above 80 per cent."