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A University Study Hub will open in Bairnsdale next semester to support local students to undergo university studies without having to relocate to Melbourne.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester secured $595,000 from the Federal Government to establish an East Gippsland study hub, which he likened to a ’virtual university’.

The hub will provide internet access, videoconferencing and teacher support making it possible for students to go to university locally via distance education.

“The training hub will make use of 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.

“The concept is modelled on a successful project in Cooma.

“Students will be able to register to complete university contact hours at the hub and then be linked to tutorials through skype, and other technologies.

“Federation University will have staff available to support students and provide extra tuition as required.”

The Gippsland East University Study Hub will open next semester at the former High School site in Dalmahoy Street, Bairnsdale, providing post-graduate courses, social learning, external examinations, study support – and potentially outreach services to Omeo, Orbost, Mallacoota and Yarram.

The study hub will be coordinated by Jane Ponting, from the Gippsland East Local Learning Employment Network, with support from East Gippsland Shire Council, Federation University and TAFE Gippsland.

TAFE Gippsland Partnership Broker Joe Rettino, who has been involved in the design and coordination of the new hub, said the opening would make a tertiary education possible for the many families who cannot afford the cost of relocating to Melbourne and supporting a second household.

Students studying at TAFE could also use their qualifications as a pathway to university study.

“Gippsland has one of the lowest university participation rates in Victoria which is largely due to affordability,” Mr Rettino said.

“This is one of the most exciting projects I’ve been involved with, in terms of creating more opportunities for young people and to provide the necessary training to address areas of skills shortage.

“I’ve visited the Country Universities Centre at Cooma and seen first-hand how it is helping local students complete a university degree.

I am confident this study hub will provide a whole new generation of opportunities for young people across East Gippsland.”

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