Cam O'Neil and others at a Country Universities Centre meeting last year.
Cam O'Neil and others at a Country Universities Centre meeting last year.

‘Ambitious’ plan to have Roma uni hub open in months

ROMA’S own Country Universities Centre could open in a matter of months, as the newly-permanent board looks to capitalise on the back of the coronavirus.

Last semester, tertiary students were forced to turn to online based studying as major institutions closed campuses to protect students from an outbreak, paving the way for centres like the new CUC hub to be successful.

Cameron O’Neil has worked with an interim board on the project for months, and a successful federal funding application means that board is now permanent, as they prepare to open the centre.

“This is all very new for our region, it’s new for investment into the Country Universities Centre model outside of NSW as well,” Cr O’Neil said.

“We have ambitious targets to have this up and running by the end of August, so it’s moving quickly.”

Cr O’Neil said the board was realistic that these things take time, but an ambitious target was needed given the current climate.

“We recognise that off the back of the coronavirus, universities are doing things differently,” he said.

“There may be a lot more local students who could use this facility earlier than expected, so if we can get it up and running early in the second semester of this year, that would be an advantage to our community.”

The hub is hoped to be opened in the existing TAFE facility, a testament to the synergy of vocational and tertiary education opportunities in the Maranoa.

“There’s a lot of value in co-hosting, and TAFE have the same view,” Mr O’Neil said.

“It is a hub, so you should be able to do everything you would do at a university campus but remotely, using up-to-date technology to engage with your host uni. Students will be able to do exams locally.”

Speaking from a council perspective, he said it had been a long-time coming to expand prospects for students post high school.

“The vision has been for a long time to diversify the education base here,” he said.

“The diversification bringing in tertiary in addition to TAFE is a win-win for community as another tick in the box for the Maranoa as a place to live. We’re excited to be affiliated with CUC, it’s worked really well and it allows students so study locally and stay in the region.”