Muresk solution to be long term: Grylls

WESTERN Australian regional powerbroker Brendon Grylls said he would not prop up the Muresk agricultural college with funding unless it had a long-term future.

Speaking to WA Business News this week, the Nationals WA leader and Regional Development Minister said while he was disappointed that Curtin University of Technology was considering closing the college, there was no point in simply providing a temporary stay of execution.

"If we are going to offer tertiary education in the regions, how are we going to make this work going forward?" Mr Grylls said.

"Trying to sandbag Curtin operating Muresk might be politically very good and save some pain, but how are we going to make this work and keep the campus full?

"From the government's point of view a response that tries to subsidise those remaining students might be good in the short-term, but not in the longer term."

Mr Grylls said the issues at Muresk, where student numbers have fallen below 100, which is less than half what Curtin believes is viable, were also prevalent at other regional campuses, specifically the Kalgoorlie School of Mines.

In 2008, Curtin decided to delay the axing of first- and second-year courses at Kalgoorlie despite a lack of demand. Due to the practical elements of later years and post-graduate studies the Kalgoorlie campus is viable, but Curtin still finds the first two years of the course have better enrolments in Perth.

Regarding Muresk, there is much work going on behind the scenes to save the agricultural college while many believe the campus will change focus to education in other areas, possibly aviation.

WAFarmers CEO Andy McMillan said his lobby group was trying to activate political willpower to save Muresk as an agricultural college.

WA federal senator Chris Back, a former lecturer at Muresk, believes the college needs to change direction to focus on food bio-security in order to remain relevant and attract more students.

Mr Back said Muresk had long focused on survival techniques for farmers, evolving as those changed. He said a shift to agri-business specialities more than two decades ago had proved a boon to the college.


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