LA Trobe University will investigate creating a campus in the Bendigo CBD in an attempt to make Bendigo into an American-style regional “university city”.
Senior university staff met with City of Greater Bendigo directors, Bendigo education leaders and business leaders on Tuesday to help guide the plans which have a targeted timeframe of between 10 and 30 years.
La Trobe flagged relocating its visual and creative arts into the Bendigo CBD in an attempt to draw more students into the struggling city centre.
Vice-chancellor John Dewar said La Trobe could look to emulate Cornell University, which is based in a town in New York State half the size of Bendigo.
He said they hoped to discuss the plans with state and federal politicians in the lead-up to elections in the coming 12 months.
“The idea now is to develop some proposals that we can take to state and federal governments, and work with the City of Greater Bendigo,” Professor Dewar said.
“We want to escape the traditional Australian assumption which has been that the great universities can only exist in our large cities.
“If you look at North America, if you look at Europe, you very quickly see that almost the reverse is true. The great universities are located in small cities, or in towns, certainly places that are much smaller than Bendigo.”
He conceded there was little available land in the centre of Bendigo, but the university would “work strategically” with the City of Greater Bendigo to find appropriate locations.
Bendigo TAFE’s city campus is already being investigated by Court Services Victoria as the potential future site of the Bendigo Law Courts. An arts hub has also been proposed at the TAFE campus.
La Trobe University could instead use “pop-up” campuses in the city centre.
City of Greater Bendigo director strategy and growth Bernie O’Sullivan said bringing students into the CBD was vital for the city’s future.
“How can we increase the presence of students? Whether it be from an accommodation point of view, learning spaces, whether pop-up or permanent,” he said.
“We’d love to get more people, more often through the city centre and Hargreaves Mall to make it a place you’d really want to visit, and that you’re proud of.”
La Trobe University is completing a $50 million building project at the Bendigo campus, including a new engineering building and student union building.
About 150 students move from Bendigo Senior Secondary College to La Trobe University for their studies, the majority of which stay in Bendigo..
Bendigo South East College acting principal Dale Pearce said seeing La Trobe further expand would be a positive for Bendigo on a number of fronts.
“Bendigo’s population is going to grow. The university is going to be a key driver of that,” he said.
“University students in regional Victoria and Bendigo are increasingly being drawn to La Trobe.”