2 December 2022

$1.27m dedicated tertiary learning centre to open in Cowra

| Edwina Mason
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The announcement of the Country Universities Centre (CUC) in Cowra. Grant Chamberlain, Cowra Shire Council, Cr Judi Smith, Cowra Shire Council Mayor Bill West, Steph Cooke MP, Stassi Austin, David Leete and Linda Barron. Photo: Steph Cooke.

An initiative that had its genesis in Cooma in 2013 is now set to take root in Cowra, making it the 11th such facility in the state set to empower students to reach their higher education potential.

In just 10 years what began as a small country community seeking a solution that would support its local students to achieve their educational aspirations, and to inject knowledge and qualifications into the local workforce can now add an 11th notch to its belt with today’s announcement.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke has today (30 November) welcomed funding of $1.27m for a new Country Universities Centre (CUC) in Cowra, which will provide a learning space for students to obtain their degrees without the need to move away from home.

The state-of-the-art facility is scheduled to open its doors in early 2023 and will be equipped with modern technology, high bandwidth internet, space to study and access to videoconferencing.

A story that began in the Monaro just short of 10 years ago has evolved into one of the greatest successes in regional NSW – even jumping the border into Queensland and Victoria.

READ ALSO: Country communities committed to the education of youth

Cooma in 2013 was a small country town of 7000. It’s closest university and major city was over an hour’s drive away.

So Snowy Hydro Ltd and the then Cooma Monaro Shire Council along with key community members, jointly funded the establishment of the Cooma Universities Centre.

A recent report by Regional Australian Institute (RAI) acknowledges the contributions of CUC in creating workforce pipelines into regions across NSW and highlights the impact of CUC students. The vast majority study courses that will equip them to work in the sectors where demand for employees is high and projected for growth. Photo: CUC.

A year later, Snowy Hydro gifted the centre to the Cooma community where it was run as a charitable, incorporated, not-for-profit organisation with a local board of directors.

The centre operated for five years without any government funding as Snowy Hydro Ltd and the Snowy Monaro Shire Council continued their support.

During this time, the NSW Government recognised the impact of the centre on the local community and provided seed funding to expand the model into five regional communities in NSW.

Today that only child now has siblings scattered across the state supporting (their initial dream milestone) of 1000 students, at Broken Hill, Narrabri and Moree, Grafton, Kempsey and – closer to home – Goulburn, Leeton and Griffith, Parkes and Ulladulla.

In Victoria, the CUC has been established in the coastal town of Wonthaggi, south of Melbourne, and the towns of Mansfield, Corryong and Wangaratta in the Ovens and Murray region of north-eastern Victoria.

Up north, it is represented in the towns of St George and Dirranbandi and also Roma.

Ms Cooke was full of high praise for the scheme as she made the announcement in Cowra which, like Cooma, is well over an hour away from major university campuses.

“Where you live should not limit your opportunities for a good education and once operational, the centre will enable students to engage in and successfully complete their studies in a safe and flexible learning environment,” Ms Cooke said.

“What a fantastic opportunity for people who wish to grow up in Cowra, this will allow them to study, work and have a wonderful life in this beautiful part of the world.”

Backed by CUC’s Cowra Regional Board and Cowra Shire Council, the council’s community development officer Linda Barron said establishment of a CUC in Cowra would meet a strong demand for improved tertiary education supports in the local area.

READ ALSO: From Braidwood to the outback: Katie Jayne champions teaching and CEF’s crucial role

“We know from the Cowra Youth Council’s research that our young people will benefit from improved access to study facilities,” she said.

“The CUC Cowra Region will provide a place where university students of all ages can connect with like-minded people, helping to break down the isolation many remote learners face.”

Country Universities Centre interim-CEO Duncan Taylor said the combination of study spaces, technology, the student community and the human support would provide the needed environment for local students to thrive in their studies and would enrich opportunities across the Central West region.

More information on the Country Universities Centre network can be found here.

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