Green light for university hub for Eyre Peninsula students

Hub: Port Lincoln High School year 12 team leaders Nell Cane and Mitchell Paterson alongside St Joesph's School's house and vice captains Sarah Lawrie, Chai Thomson and Sophie Gill with Port Lincoln Mayor Brad Flaherty at Baptist Church manse. Photo: supplied.
Hub: Port Lincoln High School year 12 team leaders Nell Cane and Mitchell Paterson alongside St Joesph's School's house and vice captains Sarah Lawrie, Chai Thomson and Sophie Gill with Port Lincoln Mayor Brad Flaherty at Baptist Church manse. Photo: supplied.

Port Lincoln will see the creation of a $400,000 Regional University Centre under the umbrella of Uni Hub Spencer Gulf.

The City of Port Lincoln Council welcomed the commitment from the Federal Government via the Regional University Centre Program which will see the creation of the hub.

This had been a key strategic objective in council's long-term plans to investigate and secure university options in Port Lincoln.

The Federal Government's Regional University Centre Program has been around for several years, leading to the creation of Regional University Centres across the country.

The latest round opened for applications in early 2022, and council took the opportunity to support Uni Hub Spencer Gulf after being approached by the hub about its initiative, with the new centre being available to all tertiary students on the Eyre Peninsula.

Council's commitment has involved access to the facilities on the corner of Hallett Place and Adelaide Place being the former 'manse' building, with a co-contribution matched by federal funding of $200,000 to upgrade the building to be used as the new study hub.

Mayor Flaherty said that despite not seeing the final details of the funding agreement, this was a "big" win for the community.

"We understand that regardless of the election result on May 21, this is locked in for our community," Mayor Brad Flaherty said.

"We will have more to say once further details are confirmed, but this is a great outcome not just for our youth but for anyone wanting to take the leap and undertake tertiary studies and also for businesses who may want to support their employees to complete formal studies."

The mayor thanked the Uni Hub Spencer Gulf and the Federal Government for their commitment to the future tertiary education requirements of regional communities.

Port Lincoln City Council chief executive Matthew Morgan said the manse will be upgraded to be fit for purpose for use as a Uni Hub.

"What that looks like we actually do not know the details of that yet...but likely what that will be is some carparking, landscaping work on the outside - it will be some minor treatments on the original part of the manse."

Mr Morgan said this could involve painting floor covering, window furnishings as well as heating and cooling.

"Then there is a newer wing on the side of it that was built in the 1960s - that will probably get rebuilt and that will have accessible toilets put into it - all of those sorts of things that you would expect in a modern office environment."

Mr Morgan explained beyond the work on the manse, council will enter into a lease arrangement with uni hub, with a small lease pay wall to council every year.

"That is still to be negotiated - the hub is basically a safe study space where students can go - Uni Hub Spencer Gulf operate study hubs in Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Kadina - some of the facilities are 24 hours day operation."

Mr Morgan explained if the students were registered with the hub they will receive a swipe card to allow them to enter the facility where they will be able to access computers, study spaces, printers ectara.

"There is also some courses available through Uni Hub Spencer Gulf which are provided by University of Adelaide, Flinders University and Central Queensland University - if the students enrol in one of those courses, they get support from Uni Hub Spencer Gulf.

"They will be starting largely remotely but they will get staff support while they are actually in that facility and then it is also open to anyone else studying at other universities."

Mr Morgan said the hub was set to be operational in February 2023.

"To get us from where we are now to February 2023, we would need to be doing the works on that building July, August, September, October, November - we will probably start working on specifications for tender in July/August with a view to the works being completed September, October November, ready for operation in the following February.

Mr Morgan emphasised the project is still in a planning phase, with the project included in the draft budget if council adopt the project for the next financial year.

"The plans once we get to that point of specification most likely wont come back to council per se, but the other details around the formalisation of the partnership with Uni Hub Spencer Gulf and the lease arrangements ectra will definitely come back to council."

Mr Morgan said council would put the project out to tender, with local tenderers likely to be selected for the building works.

"There will be a builder engaged to do the work and then they will have the sub contractors - most of the local builders use tradies as well so plumbing electrical and landscaping."

Mr Morgan emphasised the hub will be a great opportunity for families who would otherwise not be able to afford to send their children to study somewhere remote like Adelaide.

"They have now got an opportunity where they can study in a supported local environment and still live at home - it is going to be huge for families across the Lower Eyre Peninsula."

The CEO emphasised people of all ages will use the hub as a study space.

"Like any other organisation, we will likely have staff who are doing further studies who may even study through Uni Hub as well.

"They can at least socialise and talk with other students in that environment, where if they were studying at home they probably would not get that opportunity."