ASPIRING students in Atherton and the greater Tablelands region will soon have access to higher education without having to relocate with major universities already backing the expanding learning space.
Kennedy MP Bob Katter welcomed the announcement of Vocational Partnership Groups (VPG) Atherton being awarded funding to expand its offerings under the Australian Government’s Regional University Centres program. The program is set to establish eight new regional university centres across Australia.
Mr Katter said the opportunity to undertake a tertiary education on the Tablelands would help regional towns grow, especially in the “food bowl” of Queensland.
“Our rural towns are dealing with the pressure of population decline because so often our governments fail to realise their potential. This is great news for Atherton and the Tablelands,” Mr Katter said.
VPG chief executive Maryanne Tranter said the establishment of the Tablelands University Centre would aim to provide local access to university education through the provision of support and facilities.
“Utilising existing infrastructure at our VPG Service Centre in Atherton, the Tablelands University Centre will aim to drive positive change in regional education to ensure our youth and wider community have access to quality post-school opportunities and networks,” Ms Tranter said.
“Our service centre already offers dynamic and flexible learning and study spaces, ideal for individual and group learning. By opening our doors to the wider community, locals will be able to pursue the career they want and stay in the communities they know and love.”
It is understood Central Queensland University and James Cook University are backing the TUC as it aligns with their shared commitment to create increased education pathways for the region.
“Our university partners will deliver learning online for undergraduate courses, such as education, nursing, social work, psychology and engineering, and have committed to in-person education support as enrolments grow. Students will also have access to an on-site education coach at VPG to enhance learning experiences and maximise study success.
“Atherton has strong school completion rates, and in the past, young adults have needed to leave the community to pursue education, and are often not returning, contributing to skill shortages across key industries.
“To understand and respond to local needs of Atherton and surrounding communities, a regional university reference group will be established, made up of key industry, business, and community representatives,” said Ms Tranter.
Tablelands Regional Council Mayor Rod Marti labelled the expansion as “very big news” and said it was a key in addressing workforce skills shortages.
“The opportunity for local people to participate in education opportunities, vocational and tertiary, has significant flow-on effects for our community, especially allowing people to improve their skills and qualifications while staying right here,” Mr Marti said.
“I congratulate the VPG team for its commitment and hard work.”
The TUC is anticipated to benefit students in rural areas, from Mareeba, Tablelands and Ethridge shires.
In the first year of operation, approximately 100 students are estimated to access the centre, with enrolments continuing to build year on year.
For further information or media interviews please contact:
Jenna Happy – VPG Communications Officer – mob: 0418 982 912