Deakin University Warrnambool's new major a step forward

How times change.

Wannon MP Dan Tehan and Deakin University Warrnambool campus director Alistair McCosh at this week's launch.

Wannon MP Dan Tehan and Deakin University Warrnambool campus director Alistair McCosh at this week's launch.

A group of about 30 people celebrated the launch of Deakin University Warrnambool’s new Bachelor of Commerce food and agribusiness major at the campus on Thursday.

Warrnambool campus director Alistair McCosh, Wannon MP Dan Tehan and Warrnambool Cheese and Butter’s Kirsty Appleton spoke passionately about the importance of the new course offering to business and the region’s biggest industry.

Their speeches received loud applause.

It was an overwhelmingly positive event because, as Mr Tehan and Mr McCosh put it, the major was a key milestone in sustaining the campus’ future, not just in the next two or three years, but the long-term.

In March last year, more than 800 people packed Warrnambool’s Lighthouse Theatre for a hastily convened Save Our Uni rally as Deakin considered exiting the campus because of unsustainable numbers and financial losses.

The outpouring of community support sent a clear message the campus had to remain open and it needed to be more responsive to the south-west. The region is home to a large agricultural industry yet the our only true university campus offered nothing in this field. This week’s formal launch of the food and agribusiness major is a significant step forward for not only the campus’ future but industry too.

The campus’ future is significantly brighter not only because of the new offering but the positive atmosphere being created as Mr McCosh and campus CEO Grant Sutherland lead it into a new era.

They are actively and more aggressively marketing the campus. 

They have plans to make course offerings more relevant to the region’s employers, they have received considerable philanthropic support for scholarships as they work to re-build student numbers and the community is more aware it needs to back the local institution.

The positivity was uplifting. But we all know there is plenty more work to do. The task of attracting more overseas students in an ultra-competitive market heads the list. But creating cases for more offerings and domestic students is equally important.

It’s unrealistic to think student numbers can double to their previous highs of a few years ago by 2019. It will take much longer. This week represented a small yet important step on a long journey that was worth celebrating.