MORE students are looking to study at Warrnambool's Deakin University as marine sciences grow in popularity and impacts of the pandemic favour regional living.
Campus director Alistair McCosh said "strong" interest in its flagship marine sciences course was positive after the university on Friday issued a slightly increased number of first-round offers to prospective students.
"This (marine sciences numbers) is a good sign for us," he said. "This is excellent because a lot of regional students that were considering going to Melbourne are realising that regional is a much better offer."
Mr McCosh said marine science had gained in popularity with year 12 students focused on the environment.
"They are being recognised as high-quality courses and the regional offer of being able to study close to the beaches and rivers of the region, compared to other marine science sites, is a bonus," he said.
"It's the destination - we're on the Great Ocean Road and students are seeing that it's a great place to do marine science."
Nursing/midwivery was the most-sought after course at Warrnambool and Deakin's other campuses.
He said applications for commerce and teaching courses also remained stable.
"We've also been fortunate enough to offer scholarships - students with high ATARs in the 80s and 90s have selected Deakin Warrnambool," he said.
Mr McCosh said more students from the south-west were considering Warrnambool as their first preference.
"I think that's been a bit of a trend in the past two years.
"Those who traditionally would go Melbourne are instead deciding to stay where the course is offered.
"I think that the impact of COVID-19 has certainly been a consideration for students - moving to Melbourne, they don't want to be looking at coming back home in a month's time (due to COVID-19 restrictions).
"Parents are also playing an important part in considering that too."
Mr McCosh said after the stop/start of studying on-campus last year, he was confident students and staff would return to campus when classes resumed in March.
"It's not a campus without the students," he said. "These students want to come onto campus.
"They can elect to do as much online or campus they want, but some courses like marine science and nursing require onsite attendance because the students need to do lab classes."
Mr McCosh said the university received five first-year applications from people overseas.
"Some of those students may have been international students that have completed a diploma or language course in Melbourne," he said.
"They have all been offered places in either the marine science or nursing courses."
Mr McCosh said only a small number of international students finished their course at the university throughout the pandemic.
"Most have completed their courses in the last two years and returned home or went into the workforce here in Australia," he said.
"We are very focused on seeing a return of our international students over the coming years as borders reopen and we re-engage in our offshore markets to promote the offers at Deakin Warrnambool."
Additional offers for applicants including school-leavers, mature-age students and those coming from other non-school environments will be made in late January and February, followed by opportunities for direct applications.
One student who has received a university offer away from home this year is Emmanuel College captain Ashley Evans.
She will be the first person in her family to study at university.
Ashley has received an offer to study a Bachelor of Speech Pathology (Honours) at La Trobe University in Bendigo.
"It was my second preference, my first was La Trobe University in Melbourne, but I was also really happy to go to Bendigo," she said.
"I was thrilled because I've always wanted to do speech pathology.
"This is the first time I'll be living out of home and I'm the first person to go to university in the family, so that's exciting."
Ashley is the youngest of two children, with her older sister, Leah Evans, working in education support.
Ashley said she chose speech pathology as a career path after undertaking work experience with the allied health team at Warrnambool Base Hospital.
"Speech pathology was my favourite of that," she said. "I think it would be a very rewarding."
Deakin University made first-round offers to 5851 school-leavers through VTAC. Offers for international students will be released on Tuesday.
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