MORE regional students will have a chance to become nurses, social workers and psychologists under a new plan revealed by Mildura’s La Trobe University.
The university believes the plan will help the university, and wider community recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
A new Diploma of Health Sciences will be offered for the first time in Mildura in 2021, enabling eligible students to move seamlessly into degrees in nursing, health science and social work upon completion.
The university will also introduce online offerings of most of its psychology courses, making them available for the first time to Mildura students – both school-leavers, and those returning to study.
La Trobe vice-chancellor, Professor John Dewar, AO, said as regional communities begin recovering from the pandemic, building a strong rural health workforce is a priority for the university.
“More than ever, regional Australia needs experts in front line and mental health, who deeply understand the issues facing regional communities, and the local services available to help people recover,” he said.
“Our new Diploma of Health Sciences will appeal to Year 12s and non-school leavers who want to undertake university study in a health discipline, but perhaps don’t meet the entry requirements for one of our Bachelor programs
“And by introducing online offerings of most of our psychology courses, more regional students will be able to become registered psychologists, using their new knowledge and experience in their local communities.”
La Trobe’s Mildura Head of Campus, Dr Deb Neal, PICTURED, is excited by the prospects for new students.
She says the new online pathway will be a great boost to community resources in our region.
Dr Neal agreed the online path is one of the many ‘silver linings’ to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on education.
“La Trobe went online like so many other educational institutions, and were surprised to see how engaged our students were with online teaching,” she said.
The light bulb moment came when the university realised that it was not contained to offering courses on-campus.
Dr Neal acknowledged that studying off-campus is not new, but students here will benefit because although they might not be studying on campus, they will have access to the campus, and its staff.
It is a supportive model Dr Neal is very enthusiastic about.
“The most exciting one is probably psychology,” Dr Neal said. “It’s amazing to think people will no longer have to leave our community to become a psychologist,” she said.
The hope is that once qualified, many students will choose to remain in Sunraysia, and places like the Riverland and Broken Hill which are also serviced by La Trobe, to work in their own communities.
Under the new plans, the Mildura campus will continue to offer courses addressing strong rural workforce need – including nursing, social work and education – as well as popular courses across arts, business and IT.
However, Professor Dewar said the delivery mode of some courses will change in response to market desire for greater choice and flexibility.
“Some disciplines will move to a mixed-mode approach – with some content delivered online, some on-campus – and other courses will be available entirely online,” Professor Dewar said.
“We’ve been receiving positive feedback from students on our innovative and engaging approach to online learning.
“If we can provide students greater flexibility and choice in how, when and where they study, and this entices more students from across the country to commit to higher education – including in rural and regional areas – then we have achieved an important part of our mission.”
Professor Dewar added the university’s new Regional Connect program will make online study at La Trobe more attractive for students living within commuting distance of the Mildura campus.
La Trobe developed individual campus plans as part of its reset strategy which responds to significant financial challenges caused by COVID-19.