THE NUMBER of students enrolled at Bendigo's two TAFE campuses increased by more than a thousand last year, despite the COVID pandemic.
In its annual report for 2020, tabled in the state parliament on Tuesday, the Bendigo Kangan Institute said there were 6,243 students - including apprentices and trainees - at its Bendigo City and Charleston Road campuses.
That was up from 5,207 enrolled students in 2019.
Student numbers were down slightly at both the Echuca and Castlemaine campuses.
A decision by the state government to offer several TAFE courses for free has been identified as a major driver behind the growth in enrolments.
The TAFE noted in the report the challenges posed by the pandemic and the sudden shift to remote and online learning.
"Of the courses underway at the time COVID-19's lockdown began, 168 online courses continued to be delivered, with 112 of these facilitated through the BKI in-house learning platform, and the remaining 56 remotely facilitated through email and video conferencing platforms," the TAFE said in the annual report.
"The balance of the 316 courses delivered annually had not commenced or were not impacted.
"At the end of the year, 57 per cent of all practical placements had been completed, leaving 414 placements outstanding for students who had otherwise completed their studies.
"Practical placements are a mandatory requirement for the successful completion of a number of courses.
"Placement areas most impacted by COVID-19 were: Community Services, Early Childhood and Education, Individual Support, Vet Nursing, Allied Health and Animal Studies."
The Bendigo City campus is going through a major redevelopment, with $60 million being spent on new and refurbished buildings.
"This project, which is due for completion in mid-2021, includes new buildings and the refurbishment of existing heritage buildings," chief executive Sally Curtain said in her report, "creating vibrant and modern learning and teaching facilities that our regional students so richly deserve."
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