STATE FIRST: Student Jess Harland, Centre Manager Bec Coffey and CUC Maranoa Chair Cameron O'Neil at the opening of the Country Universities Centre Maranoa.
STATE FIRST: Student Jess Harland, Centre Manager Bec Coffey and CUC Maranoa Chair Cameron O'Neil at the opening of the Country Universities Centre Maranoa.

STATE FIRST: Maranoa Country University opens its doors

The first every country university hub in the state has opened in the Maranoa in the hopes of closing the tertiary education gap between regional communities and larger cities.

Local students enrolled in any Australian university will now have free access to a high-tech campus facility to undertake their studies as the Country Universities Centre Maranoa opened its doors on Monday, March 29.

CUC Maranoa Chair Cameron O’Neil said our aspiring students’ future should not be determined by where he or she lives.

“The establishment of our centre here in the Maranoa will allow local students to participate in tertiary education and achieve their educational goals from their hometown and community,” Cr O’Neil said.

“Practically it means local students can access high speed internet, printing and video conferencing, as well as academic, administrative and peer support.”

Cr O’Neil said plans to give local tertiary students a real local option to study has been on the cards for several years and with the establishment of the first centre of its kind in Queensland this vision is being realised.

“The need to diversify our industry bases here is something that has been talked about for a number of years on the back of the highs and lows of the oil and gas sector, and one of our prominent industries in the Maranoa is education – we have great schools and a tafe and we thought where else can value-add to that,” he said.

“For our students, whether straight out of school or mature-aged students, for them to do study, doing it externally has it’s challenges or they move away to Toowoomba or Brisbane largely, but there’s never been a real choice for them to stay here locally.

“I know there will be students who will still opt to go away which is great, but this centre is for those kids who want to take on tertiary studies but don’t want to move on yet, and that’s great because that further bridges the gap between what access a student in a highly populated area has compared to a centre like ours in southwest Queensland and this is a win, win for the community.

The establishment of the CUC Maranoa has been made possible through the financial support from the Australian Government providing just shy of $1.4 million, and from Maranoa Regional Council, Santos, Origin and Powerlink.

Bec Coffey, Centre Manager of CUC Maranoa, said it’s been an empowering process to get the university underway.

“Helping others in the area to have the confidence and support to believe they can better themselves through education was too exciting to miss,” Ms Coffey said.

Putting a break in her own studies as a mature-aged student studying Secondary mathematics and someone who has taught School of the Air in Cloncurry on a large cattle property, Ms Coffey knows all to well the struggles external students face.

“Not everyone can afford moving to the coast for their studies and some don’t want to go to the big smoke, which then turns people off studying,” she said.

The CUC Maranoa has 27 students enrolled and hope to have 100 throughout this year, and encourage any student wishing to discuss their eligibility to study from the CUC Maranoa to make an appointment with their Centre Manager on 1800 OUR CUC (1800 687 282).

Medical Imaging student Jess Harland has done just that – she’s in the first year of her 3.5 year degree and will be visiting the centre every day to study.

“My house was getting renovated the last couple of weeks so that’s been very distracting so I need somewhere quiet to study and somewhere I can get organised and think,” she said.

“I’ve had issues with the university system crashing so it will be really beneficial coming here and getting help.”

Jess is studying at CQ University based in Mackay and did not want to relocate and believes the centre will be a real benefit to herself and friends wanting to stay in Roma.

Ms Coffey said there’s been interest from students in Injune and Mitchell also.

Cr O’Neil said he is proud to lead a board of directors who all share the passion for making the centre a reality, and the work and effort for everyone involved including the Centre Manager Bec Coffey who should be commended.


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