DEAKIN University is in negotiations with other organisations to take over its Warrnambool campus offerings.
Vice Chancellor Jane den Hollander briefed staff for about an hour on Friday morning about an ongoing 2020 review, which aimed to guarantee a sustainable future for the site.
She stressed no decisions had been made about options but said nothing had been “ruled in or out”.
Staff were told there of three possibilities – finding a new provider, closure or attracting more students. A decision is due by July.
The revelation comes after The Standard last November revealed courses in the School of Communication and Creative Arts at the campus would be axed. That led the National Tertiary Education Union to fear for the campus’ future and that it was at risk of “death by a thousand cuts” – suggestions the university denied.
Professor den Hollander on Friday said despite a great investment in the Warrnambool campus, student numbers had continued “a year-on-year” decline, falling from 1342 students in 2011 to a forecast 872 this year.
She said Deakin wanted to provide a high-quality experience, but fewer numbers meant students were not getting that at Warrnambool.
Professor den Hollander said the university was committed to retaining tertiary education in the south-west but whether it was Deakin offering undergraduate courses remained to be seen.
“We have not confirmed a final direction, but we are in a discussions with a range of people and organisations as we work to find a better higher education solution for Warrnambool,” she said.
"There have been, and are, ongoing discussions with Federation University, but there is no offer on the table. Nothing had been decided.”
The Standard understands La Trobe University and University of Central Queensland were also mentioned.
Negotiations between Deakin and Federation University have reportedly been ongoing for more than six months. Both had previously denied this but on Friday confirmed they had talked.
Professor den Hollander denied the Warrnambool campus would be given away, saying it would always remain under Deakin’s ownership.
“If another university was to come onto the campus, they would be offered a very generous lease,” she said.
“Obviously there would be significant structural changes needed, Deakin would need to offer compensation.”
Professor den Hollander said the 2020 review, which began last June under the leadership of Grant Sutherland, had identified a growing gap between the university’s offerings and the region’s needs.
“The desire of the region’s students, businesses and the broader community is mostly for certificate and diploma qualifications at the sub-degree level,” she said.
“There are solutions, we just need to work to find something that will work best for Warrnambool and the region.”