20/08/2009 - 00:00

Muresk to close within two years

20/08/2009 - 00:00

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THE 83-year-old Muresk agricultural training school is expected to close within two years, potentially ending an important chapter in the history of Western Australia's regional education.

Muresk to close within two years

THE 83-year-old Muresk agricultural training school is expected to close within two years, potentially ending an important chapter in the history of Western Australia's regional education.

While rural industry players such as WAFarmers are understood to be seeking a way of keeping the facility near Northam operational, locals are resigned to the fact that the institute is likely to be relocated to Curtin University of Technology's Bentley campus.

Muresk is the only tertiary agricultural education provider based in regional WA.

The expectation is that the campus, which includes a fully functioning farm and a 135-bed residential complex, will remain as a functioning educational facility.

A frontrunner to take over the facility is a fledging flight school established at Northam whose founders are believed to have links to the successful Merredin air training school, which now is called China Southern Airlines Flying College.

Curtin is currently conducting a review of the Muresk operation headed by deputy vice-chancellor academic, Jane den Hollander. Muresk has been part of the Curtin for about 40 years.

Professor den Hollander said the future of Muresk had been under consideration since the university underwent its own strategic review two years ago.

She said that student numbers had fallen to around 95, less than half the number required to maintain the facility cost effectively.

"Unless things change and we get a change in demand for Muresk then we'll have to move the discipline to Bentley," Professor den Hollander said.

Curtin believes that agricultural studies have become more sophisticated and it is more cost effective to provide state-of-the-art equipment in Bentley where other science-based disciplines are based.

In addition, many students no longer want to conduct their studies in a rural setting, preferring to live in Perth.

Professor den Hollander said the university was looking at a number of options for the school, which will remain teaching the current crop of students, most likely for two more years.

Curtin owns some of the land while the rest is held by the state.

Northam shire president Steven Pollard said the expected closure was disappointing but would not badly affect the region.

"We are obviously not overly happy with that but we understand how they came to that conclusion," he said.

Mr Pollard said the Wheatbelt Development Commission was looking at alternative uses for the site, including flight training for overseas pilots.

The shire last year approved the Australian International Flight Instructor Training School to commence activities for flight instructor training at the airport.

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