Regional partnership breaks down barriers to higher education
UOW and Bega Valley Shire Council MOU to benefit students and community
The University of Wollongong has demonstrated its commitment to students in regional areas, with a new partnership set to provide greater educational opportunities and employment outcomes on the New South Wales Far South Coast.
Professor Alison Jones, UOW’s Deputy Vice Chancellor (Health and Communities), today (23 November) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the University and Bega Valley Shire Council during a visit to the regional campus.
The MOU will formalise an agreement between UOW and the local council to work together to ensure that their rural location is not a barrier to learning by helping students access a world-class education on their doorstep.
Professor Jones, who is also the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health, said the partnership demonstrates UOW’s ongoing commitment to regional students and to the Bega Valley.
“By working together with Bega Valley Shire Council, the University of Wollongong is continuing to overcome the tyranny of distance and provide students in regional areas with the same educational pathways as their city counterparts,” Professor Jones said.
“Higher education is a force for good in regional areas, and today’s MOU shows that UOW is contributing to a dynamic community in Bega Valley through education and employment opportunities.
“UOW Bega allows regional students to pursue higher education in their community, which enables these skills to remain in the area and provide an even greater benefit to residents in the years to come.”
Under the agreement, UOW and Bega Valley Shire Council have pledged to work together to increase participation in higher education among students in the region and develop projects that will contribute to economic development in the community.
Year 6 students from across the region’s primary schools were invited to take part in the event alongside Professor Jones and Bega Valley Shire Mayor Kristy McBain.
The students are part of the Kids In2Uni Program, which encourages Stage Three primary school students to start thinking about a path to higher education by interacting with university students and visiting campuses.
This year, UOW Bega students have mentored 1000 local school students through a suite of innovative In2Uni programs.
UOW Bega Campus Manager Sam Avitaia said having the young students take part in the event showed how the partnership between the University and the council would benefit the community for generations to come.
“It is an important day for UOW Bega and the community,” Ms Avitaia said. “While the University and Bega Valley Shire Council have always had a great relationship, the MOU makes official UOW’s commitment to remain a strong presence in the Bega Valley.
“UOW Bega has already provided immense benefits to the local community by breaking down the geographical and financial barriers that often prevent regional students from accessing higher education. The MOU recognises the importance of continuing to work together for the benefit of local students and the region as a whole, by providing education pathways and tangible employment outcomes.
“It is a time of change and uncertainty for many regional economies, but UOW Bega is helping Bega Valley to remain a vibrant, thriving community.”
Since UOW Bega was established in 2000, more than 450 students have graduated from the campus, which offers degrees in business, humanities, teaching and nursing.
In January 2016, a $1.5 million Clinical Education Unit was opened at the campus, with nursing education and state-of-the-art nursing simulation labs.
The Bega Clinical Education Unit provides improved access to clinical care for the people of Bega Valley while addressing the growing demand that Bega’s ageing population has placed on the region’s health services.
Professor Jones was appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Health and Communities) in October, in an announcement made by UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings CBE.
As part of the Health and Communities portfolio, Professor Jones will lead UOW’s cutting edge-health strategy in rural and regional areas, providing greater access to clinical care and engaging with industry partners.
Professor Jones is an internationally renowned toxicologist who has changed clinical practice through her research. She has spent more than 25 years in clinical practice, and now works between Wollongong Hospital and Blacktown Hospital.