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A university training hub will be established in East Gippsland to provide tertiary education opportunities for students to study locally via distance education.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester announced $595,000 from the Federal Government to establish a community-owned Regional Study Hub, which he likened to a ’virtual university’.

“The training hub will use the latest technologies so that students who cannot relocate to Melbourne for a range of reasons have the flexibility to study locally for all or part of a degree,” Mr Chester said.

“Students will be able to register to complete their university contact hours at the hub and then be linked in tutorials through skype and other technologies, with staff on site to provide extra tuition as required.”

Mr Chester said the hub would make a tertiary education possible for the many families who cannot afford the cost of relocating to Melbourne and supporting a second household.

“Helping young Gippslanders achieve their full potential has been one of my highest priorities as a local MP and this is a great win for our community,” Mr Chester said.

“Gippsland has one of the lowest university participation rates in Victoria primarily due to affordability, which has a flow-on effect in our schools affecting aspiration.

“The proportion of East Gippsland students enrolled at university in 2016 was less than one third the national average.

‘This is a significant step forward for our region in terms of creating more opportunities for young people and to provide the necessary training to address areas of skills shortage.”

Gippsland East Local Learning Employment Network is the primary partner, however, this project is a collaboration between the LLEN, East Gippsland Shire Council, Federation University and Federation Training.

Mayor Natalie O’Connell branded the announcement a “game-changer”.

“This is one of the most exciting projects I’ve been involved with in terms of addressing the disadvantage of youth from our region having equity and access to tertiary education.

“East Gippsland Shire Council, and particularly former mayor Joe Rettino, has been advocating strongly for this concept since first viewing the Country Universities Centre at Cooma.

“It’s an opportunity for us to create Centre of Excellence (COE) on our regional strengths for example, working with the The University of New England to develop agricultural courses in partnership with the local horticultural industry that are delivered from East Gippsland.

“The hub will also provide opportunities for young women re-entering the workforce to access flexible universities along with many people transitioning to the new job opportunities or career advancement.”

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