New Deakin University vice-chancellor Professor Iain Martin isn't shying away from the challenges Warrnambool's campus is facing, and says he will lead the charge to reinvigorate the higher education provider.
Three years ago the campus was earmarked for closure due to dwindling student numbers, however a concerted community campaign and a $14 million federal government cash injection to grow the campus saw it saved.
Professor Martin took up the role on July 1 after former VC Jane den Hollander retired and was in the city on Thursday to meet campus staff and students.
He says the campus has a future in Warrnambool, but acknowledged growing student numbers would always be a challenge, not just in the city but at regional campuses across the country.
"We should be optimistic we have a place here," he said.
"I have got a real sense of the passion and enthusiasm for Deakin Warrnambool that staff and students all have. This campus and the activity that takes place here is incredibly important to the community in and around Warrnambool. I absolutely recognise that. One of the things I am doing at the moment with staff, and we will extend it out to broader stakeholders, is thinking about what does the next stage of the development of the Warrnambool campus look like.
"We know for this campus to thrive we have to create a high quality experience for our students and we have to have a critical mass of activity and an environment that enables us to recruit, retain and grow the best staff we can possibly can.
"All of those are challenging. Warrnambool, like many, if not all regional campuses across the country, had some real challenges with student numbers when the funding system changed some seven or eight years ago and a huge amount of capacity in metropolitan campuses opened up."
He said that was not going to change.
"So we need to think about where we go from here," he said.
"It's about education that matters to the community. We will be looking to how we strengthen our partnership with South West TAFE so that there are more easily navigated pathways for students."
He said the campus would also have a focus on post graduate education to help re-equip workers whose jobs had changed and needed to upskill.
"Technology may mean their careers have changed, disappeared or moved into an area they are no longer equipped or qualified to do," he said.
"We will have to work closely with local industry to understand where we go from there."
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