PROFESSOR Scott Bowman, the vice-chancellor of CQUniversity, has written to The Morning Bulletin to explain why he believes it is vital that the university merges with CQ TAFE.
The proposed amalgamation is in the spotlight because the LNP, the likely victor in this month's Queensland election, says it will not rubber-stamp the deal without careful scrutiny.
Ted Malone, the LNP frontbencher with responsibility for skills and training told The Bulletin he had concerns about the loss of state assets and had to be convinced the merger would produce the next generation of trade apprentices.
This is Mr Bowman's response.
THE proposed merger between CQ TAFE and CQUniversity has generated a lot of interest in the media lately, which I think is a good thing - the community should be having a discussion about how post-schooling education can be tailored to better meet the unique needs of Central Queensland.
We are sitting in a region unlike any other in Australia, at a time unlike any other, with opportunities and challenges being thrown at us that only come along once in a lifetime. The communities, industries, economies, workforce pressures, skills needs, social factors, environments and lifestyle options of Central Queensland cannot be found anywhere else in the state, yet for decades we've had the same cookie-cutter post-schooling education options as everywhere else in the state. It works, but it could work better.
I believe the merger of CQ TAFE with CQUniversity will unlock the region's potential to respond more quickly and effectively to the education and training demands in our own backyard. Currently we have a TAFE and a university, both full of great staff, both with fantastic facilities, both competing for the same school leavers and students, both trying to skill the local workforce, but with no real co-ordination or strategy between them because they are working in relative isolation. And it is the students that are missing out. This idea of academic apartheid - where you are either on a 'TAFE' or 'university' path for life - has held this region back from realising its full potential.
I want the line between TAFE and Higher Education in Central Queensland to be blurred, so that our students don't even realise they are drifting back and forth between the two. I want our engineering students at uni to have the choice of TAFE vocational competencies built into their degree to make them more attractive to local industries. I want a TAFE-trained Enrolled Nurse to not hesitate coming back to their own university to train further to become a Registered Nurse. I want the uni's performing arts students to use TAFE resources to learn how to use power tools so they can say on their CV that they are qualified to build and design stage sets, which might secure them their first job. I want a TAFE-qualified hairdresser to come back to their university one day and study a tertiary business course so they can open their own chain of salons. I want us to train the best welders, fitters, electricians, teachers, nurses and accountants that we possibly can. And I want this region to celebrate the graduation of a diesel mechanic alongside the graduation of a speech pathologist.
As a region, I think we have more unmet potential than we realise. I want this merger to bring out the best in CQ TAFE, and I want CQ TAFE to bring out the best in CQU.