Recent weeks have seen a strengthening debate, in council and elsewhere, about future sources of post-school education on the Central Coast, with the member for the Entrance, Mr David Mehan condemning any move away from the University of Newcastle as ill-conceived.
To the extent that separation should be in the short-term, I agree. However, as a responsible community, it is incumbent on us to maintain a long-term vision of what we want for our Region. And in that context, I judge that there is a strong case for the eventual establishment of a Central Coast University of Technology, bringing together all publiclyfunded TAFE and university provision in our region. As noted on the University of Newcastle’s website, it was created through separation from what is now the University of New South Wales, as a result of “The community couldn’t let go of the notion that…[Newcastle] deserved a higher education institution of its own.” Hear, hear, and so shall we in the next decade or two, I expect. Just as Newcastle is different to Kensington, so the Central Coast is different to Newcastle. But more importantly, as a region looking to establish its economic and social identity, we would be best served by an institution that has as its number one focus, the needs and possibilities of the Central Coast. The present institutions do a good job here, but it is necessarily secondary to the needs of Newcastle and the Hunter. Any plans must take into account that students are increasingly more likely to be in paid employment while studying, with the requirement for quick and easy campus access in combination with the use of distance learning, not fi nding they have to travel to Newcastle for some of the more advanced subjects, as can happen now. Indeed, campuses of the future will be very hands-on places, given that “theory” will be mostly addressed electronically. By combining TAFE and university-level provision, equipment would be used more cost-effectively and learner and teacher movement between levels facilitated. The issue that a university on its own would have too few students to be costeffective, would not then apply. No educational institution can ever go-it-alone. As an academic researcher and in policy work within government, I interacted with many universities and TAFEs and it will ever be that way, to the benefi t of all of us. I look to both the University of Newcastle and Hunter TAFE as mature institutions, to nurture their Central Coast campuses to the point that they can be independent while maintaining current standards, including in research.
Letter, 11 June 2015 Sonnie Hopkins, Tascott