The Gunnedah Chamber of Commerce says talk of a Tamworth university could help the district to retain its youth.
“An expansion in education means it supports youth retention and youth retention is a major part of the DNA of the Chamber of Commerce,” vice-president Michael Broekman said.
“If we can keep our homegrown assets in the area, we’ve got more chances of getting them to stay in the region, which is what we want. We want regional Australia to grow.”
The University of New England revealed plans for a multi-million-dollar campus near Tamworth’s CBD in June 2018. The campus would have a 500-person capacity but is dependent on a successful NSW government grant application.
Mr Broekman said it was important for UNE to “identify what industries need and focus on that as a priority”.
“It would be good to see a focus around the region’s industry so that students being trained in the area, can actually find work in the area, which helps them get work experience as well,” he said.
“Because we’re so dominated now by the mining sector and it needs so many resources in highly-educated workers, engineers, planners and environment, it would be good to have a university that’s focused around engineering and civil construction.”
An expansion in education means it supports youth retention and youth retention is a major part of the DNA of the Chamber of Commerce.Michael Broekman, Gunnedah Chamber of Commerce
A parent of university students himself, Mr Broekman said a campus close by would also lessen the financial strain on local families.
“If UNE delivered courses only an hour away, that could mean so much less stress for families in relation to those day-to-day costs,” he said.
“Our city counterparts, they can finish Year 12 and jump on a train and go to uni… and they’re up and running, but for us in the bush, we’ve got to start planning years in advance,” he said.
“Many parents in rural Australia can have two at uni at one time so it has to be a family effort between the students maybe doing a gap year and earning money and saving up, as well as parents giving up income to support accommodation and living expenses.
“It’s also hard at times if [the students] are not permanently living in a particular town, to maintain a job in that town.”