Murray Bridge TAFE campus revamp to start; study hub, Flinders University presence planned

A Flinders University presence and an all-hours study zone are among the options being pursued for TAFE SA's under-used Murray Bridge campus.

For years, the city's council has wanted to transform the Swanport Road site into an education precinct where students and course providers could come together and develop the skills the regional economy will need in years to come.

That transformation is scheduled to begin within six weeks with the demolition of the Bywaters Beaton Building, an outdated brown-brick structure on Swanport Road.

TAFE SA's interim chief executive, Alex Reid, updated councillors on the progress being made on Monday night.

She said a business plan had been developed, discussions with Flinders University about a possible "study hub" were ongoing, and an application for $540,000 in federal funding had been submitted.

The funding would pay for the fit-out of a space central to the site's future: a hub with the wi-fi and computing facilities, study spaces and after-hours access 21st-century students expected.

"These are the things students demand now," Ms Reid said.

"They know this is what you get if you're in a high-quality learning environment.

"People learn in a whole variety of ways now, in an online environment that means they're not necessarily sitting in rows in front of a teacher."

Once that student space existed, Ms Reid said, studying would become an attractive option to more people in the Murraylands, and additional education providers would move in to meet demand.

Courses and qualifications offered would be matched up with the needs of local employers in sectors such as health, aged care, children's services or disability support.

"The notion of a learning campus ... is about bringing together different sectors and elements in education," she said.

"It can't be about doing what we're doing now, but on steroids.

"It's about building and challenging (students') expectations."

She said a similar project was transforming Geraldton, in Western Australia, and that another was planned in Port Pirie.

Beyond any renovations, the project's proponents would also need to focus on providing an easy-to-use enrolment system and take a "nimble" approach to marketing, fee-setting and budgets.

Demand from high school VET students would not be enough to get the learning campus off the ground, Ms Reid said; other providers would need to be brought in, and that would take time.

In the longer term, she believed it was "genuinely possible" international students looking to specialise in relevant disciplines could be attracted to Murray Bridge.

Building a dormitory for students from across the Mallee could be another option.

In the meantime, Ms Reid told The Standard TAFE SA remained committed to delivering education and training in the Murraylands.

She said all courses currently being offered at the Murray Bridge campus would continue at the site through the demolition and renovation process.

"We are confident that these changes will have a positive impact on staff, students and the wider community," she said.

"TAFE SA has long played a key role in the training and development of people in Murray Bridge, and our commitment to meeting local training needs is stronger than ever."

The idea of an education precinct in Murray Bridge was explored in 2015 and 2016 in two reports prepared for the council by former Port Adelaide Football Club executive Brian Cunningham.

At that time, Mr Cunningham said wi-fi, chill-out areas and computer suites were prerequisites for any further development, along with a board room and affordable room hire rates.

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