La Trobe University’s Shepparton campus needs funds to grow

By Myles Peterson

A lack of funding is hindering the expansion of La Trobe University’s Shepparton campus on Fryers St, according to local business, politics and education leaders.

The region missed out on millions on Monday when federal Education Minister Dan Tehan announced the lifting of a freeze on grants for some regional universities.

‘‘Every Australian, no matter where they live, should have access to Australia’s world-leading higher education system,’’ Mr Tehan said.

But none of the $135million on offer from the Federal Government has been earmarked for the region.

A lack of funding has put on hold plans to expand La Trobe’s campus, according to the university.

The funding issue saw State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed join forces with La Trobe’s Professor Richard Speed and Committee for Greater Shepparton’s Sam Birrell to call on the Victorian and federal governments to fund badly needed upgrades at the university’s Fryers St, Shepparton, campus.

Professor Speed said the number of students had outgrown the current facilities a decade ahead of schedule.

Student numbers have increased 160 per cent during the past 10 years and are projected to increase a further 50 per cent over the next five years, according to the university’s figures.

‘‘It was built in 2008-09 with the intention that it will last 20 years. It’s full in 10 years. That shows you the success of La Trobe University in Shepparton and how critical it is to the region,’’ Mr Birrell said.

A costed plan to deliver extra nursing labs and expand student facilities comes in at $21million.

La Trobe has allocated $5.3million and applied for federal and state grants to fund the gap.

‘‘They want to expand. We need the skilled people. It’s an obvious candidate for a relatively modest set of investments from the state and federal governments,’’ Mr Birrell said.

The context of a state election campaign was an ideal time to ask the major parties for funding commitments, according to Ms Sheed, herself campaigning to regain the seat.

‘‘It would be terrific if we could get a commitment out of both parties, both Liberal and Labor. There’s nothing like some last-minute promises,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s very disappointing that a regional university like La Trobe that’s committed to really growing in regional areas and providing opportunities for regional people missed out (on a federal grant).’’

La Trobe University student Brittany Attard, in her second year of a degree in social work, said the current facilities were cramped.

‘‘We all sort of study in the cafeteria, so it would be really nice to have a space where we could go that isn’t across the road as well. It would be nice to have some more study space,’’ she said.

‘‘We have so many new courses and so much expansion going on, I think having more rooms to have more students and more courses is really important. It’s going to keep more people in the area, instead of travelling off to Bendigo and Melbourne to study.’’