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New future for Northam campus

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Curtin University has welcomed results of the ‘Review of Post Secondary Agricultural Education in Western Australia’ released yesterday by Education Minister Elizabeth Constable.

Under the report’s recommendations, the CY O’Connor Institute will offer high end vocational education in agriculture at the Northam campus from 2011.

“Curtin is broadly supportive of the recommendations of the report, and we believe it will be the start of a new future for the Northam campus,” Curtin Vice-Chancellor Jeanette Hacket said.

“Curtin and the CY O’Connor Institute have been working together to develop pathways into degree courses for students.”

Professor Hacket said the two institutions had submitted a Structural Adjustment Fund application to the Federal Government to help them enhance teaching and learning in the region.

She said any grant funds would also support the long term sustainability of agricultural education in Western Australia, and develop student pathways.

“The Institute will move into the campus this year and will share the facilities with Curtin in 2011,” Professsor Hacket said.

She said declining enrolments had led the University to phase out teaching at Northam, but it remained committed to the discipline of agriculture.

All agricultural courses had been reviewed and updated to ensure a better alignment to Curtin’s graduate attributes and the needs of industry.

“The worrying national decline in students wishing to study agriculture has highlighted the need to develop alternative student pathways,” Professor Hacket said.

“Agriculture is critical to the security and prosperity of the nation and the region, and the sector is now a sophisticated global enterprise requiring highly qualified and skilled graduates.

“CY O’Connor Institute will provide a valuable vocational and practical option for students, linked to a university pathway for those who wish to pursue further studies in the discipline.”

From 2011, intake into Curtin’s agribusiness and agricultural science courses will be at the University’s main Bentley campus.

Practical components such as field trips will enhance the academic course content.

There will be no 2011 intake of new students at Northam by Curtin, and the University will cease teaching there by the end of 2012 at the latest.

Curtin’s decision to phase out teaching at Northam followed an extensive review and consultation process.

This involved staff, students and stakeholders from government, industry, education and the local community.

Professor Hacket said the University was aware the campus facilities were highly valued by the community.

She said she was pleased the campus would remain an educational facility supporting regional development.

“I am confident the campus will continue to be a valuable resource for the community for years to come,” Professor Hacket said.

Dr Constable said she was confident the college would keep making a strong contribution to developing skills needed in the Western Australian agriculture industry.

“The report found that to meet the challenges and opportunities of WA’s agricultural sector, the rural workforce need to be more skilled with more secure career paths,” Dr Constable said.

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