After several meetings and discussions with Charles Sturt University, Mr Toole welcomed assurances that marquee courses and the Vice Chancellor’s position will remain in Bathurst.
Mr Toole said it was an important first step in ensuring Bathurst had a sustainable university that will provide jobs for the future in regional communities.
Earlier this year Mr Toole put CSU on notice, stating that under no circumstances would he tolerate the loss of high profile subjects including nursing, paramedics, engineering, teaching and journalism. He said these courses were critical to the future of the campus in ensuring student numbers remain high. This followed revelations earlier in the year that CSU were in financial decline, going from a positive result of $30 million in 2015 to a reported $80 million reduction in revenue in 2020.
As a result of a series of recent meetings with representatives from CSU, Mr Toole said he now had written guarantees the Bathurst campus will not be closed, relocated or downsized.
“This is some good news, but I’ll be certainly keeping them to account regarding this commitment,” Mr Toole said.
“The university states the board is committed to its current campus in Bathurst and to ensuring it has a sustainable and vibrant future.”
Mr Toole has also moved to confirm that in his discussions he has also been given an ironclad guarantee the long-standing history of Bathurst being home for the university’s Vice Chancellor will not change. He said this was vital in ensuring that the local campus remains a priority into the future.
“I’ve also met with state Tertiary Education Minister Geoff Lee who has requested additional Commonwealth Grant Scheme (CGS) funding for places in regional NSW as they have the potential to act as a key driver for economic recovery,” Mr Toole said.
“This will also help ensure that a significant number of school leavers and those put out of the workforce due to COVID-19, can become skilled graduates.
“Early indicators from the NSW University Admissions Centre show demand for domestic undergraduate university places will increase in 2021. This is consistent with previous periods of economic uncertainty, when people seek to upskill or change skills for new job areas.
“Our regional universities play vital economic and social role in their communities, which will only increase as we emerge out of COVID-19. And by regional, I mean non-metropolitan areas.
“An increase to CGS funding and regional loading would assist regional universities and their students to rebuild from the COVID-19 crisis and to develop innovating offerings in short courses, online and otherwise.”
Mr Toole said the recent announcement by the NSW Nationals in the state government of a cyber-security hub at Spatial Services in Bathurst also had the potential to open up new avenues for CSU to tap into.
“There is an opportunity for CSU to offer cyber-security courses, thus allowing the university to help create a workforce for the future, right here in Bathurst,” he said.
“I’ll be keeping a close watch over the management of CSU and ensure they deliver for our community and honour their commitments.”