Warrnambool's Deakin University is experiencing a significant jump in popularity, five years after a community campaign saved the campus.
Deakin's south-west Victoria CEO Grant Sutherland said the campus had a 13.6 per cent increase in first-preference applications this year, with applicants receiving first-round offers on Thursday.
"This is very pleasing and reflects the continued increased interest in studying at the Warrnambool campus," Mr Sutherland said.
"There is still some way to go to convert this strong interest through first preferences. Applicants need to meet entry requirements for their course and then accept offers and ultimately enrol."
He said the rise in interest followed increased engagement with secondary school students.
More than 1400 students virtually attended VCE revision classes last year, and students "formed views on study" in programs for year 9s and above.
"It is likely that COVID-19 and the uncertainty it has brought will have some influence on student's decision in choosing a study location," Mr Sutherland said.
"A regional campus may become more attractive."
He said interest had increased since 2016 "as the rebuild continues" following the campus nearly closing, acknowledging "we know there is more to be done".
Two students who received first-round offers to study at the campus this week told The Standard they applied because it brought security and was financially beneficial.
Tijana Kelly received a scholarship to study a bachelor of primary education, a goal she worked towards for the past year.
"It makes it a lot easier, especially financially. I have thought about going to Melbourne, but it's just better to do it here," the 2020 Brauer College graduate said.
"I feel very secure and I have a lot of support from my family and don't have to stress about getting a job."
Ms Kelly said many of her friends were still drawn to study at metropolitan campuses but she planned to complete her four-year degree in Warrnambool.
Sophie Woolstencroft received an offer to study a bachelor of psychology sciences and planned to do the first three years of the undergraduate degree in Warrnambool.
"The thing with staying in Warrnambool, I have a few jobs, I can still stay at home and save some money," she said.
"Deakin is really close to where I live, so it's probably just a five minute walk."
Ms Woolstencroft, a 2020 Emmanuel College graduate, said COVID-19 had stalled plans for potential overseas trips and Warrnambool was considered among the "safest places to stay" given harsher lockdowns in Melbourne last year.
"I was really surprised," she said.
"So many of my friends and peers they have decided to stay here, they have either taken a gap year or decided to study here."
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