Deakin University's new vice-chancellor Professor Iain Martin says the Warrnambool campus has plenty of opportunities to increase student numbers and ensure its viability.
He says through strengthening partnerships with south-west industries, encouraging further research and studies in marine science and renewable energies, and fostering a robust relationship with the community will help to reinvigorate the campus, which was looking at closing only three years ago.
Professor Martin was born in Wales in the United Kingdom and took up the top job this month, after former vice-chancellor Jane den Hollander retired.
He will lead Deakin's Warrnambool campus as well as its Burwood and Geelong offerings.
He attended the University of Leeds to study medicine, where he stayed for 18 years as both a student and academic staff member.
He has also worked at the University of Auckland and the University of New South Wales, before moving back to the UK to head up a university in the east of England, where he worked to establish a new medical school.
He returned to Australia with his wife and two daughters for the Deakin vice-chancellor position.
"We will continue to reflect and look on where we need to go to next with the Warrnambool campus," he said.
"Are we completely out of the woods with all of the answers on where to next? No, but are we going to be looking for a mix of activities that meet different needs for this community that we can do well? Yes."
He said every regional community was struggling with similar issues around employment and ageing populations.
He wants Deakin to help address those issues.
"Universities are one of a small group of institutions that make or break communities in terms of civic infrastructure," he said.
"Part of what we need to do is make sure we don't lose the importance of education. Education really matters and it clearly matters to the Warrnambool community.
"We can't replicate a model that works for a uni in a big city in the community here. We have to focus on activities that have regional relevance and impact. We have to put up a flag and say this is what this place is about and add that value back into the community."
He said the introduction of free TAFE courses could have hurt Warrnambool's campus, but he was looking forward to making pathways from TAFE to university clearer and more accessible.
"If I didn't believe in the importance of education for the future of communities I wouldn't do this job," he said.
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