It is all possible!

The Centre Breaking Barriers and Connecting Community

Ulladulla became home to a Country Universities Centre (CUC) during COVID and has gained significant momentum since. 

The Centre site, which was part of ‘cohort 2’ in a national rollout, was chosen based on key research findings.  2016 census data revealed that while the number of students in the Southern Shoalhaven undertaking vocational training is on par with state figures, those undertaking undergraduate and postgraduate education is a significantly lower percentage than that in metro and even other regional areas. 

Centre Manager Adam Gowen says the team has a strong focus on widening participation: 

“While we know uni isn’t for everybody, it is for more people in the region than are accessing it at the moment.” 

“We offer programs like ‘My Strengths’, which sees students from Year 8 in the local high school map out their values and consider how that might align with a future career – to be thinking about post school aspirations sooner.” Added Adam. 

The other significant factor in the site’s selection was that there is no University Campus in Ulladulla, meaning if students choose to pursue higher education they often have to move or study remotely- presenting unique challenges. 

“The beauty of our Centre is that we aren’t a university, so we aren’t in competition with anyone. We currently have over 160 students registered who study at over 40 different institutions and benefit from the experience of connecting with our learning community and wrap-around supports.” 

“We create a sense of community, provide student support services, a quiet place to study with high-speed internet, exam rooms and the chance to connect with peers.” 

“We have a lot of students who are first in their family to attend uni or who face other barriers and we’re able to help them wrap their heads around the jargon of uni that they may not be familiar with – helping to reduce dropout rates,” said Adam. 

The number of students engaging with our organisation has already exceeded initial expectations with further growth predicted: 

“As we become a familiar part of the local social fabric, more and more people will see the facility as an option for them.” 

“While we are seeing more students under 25 connecting with us, the primary age group of our students is the 25–45-bracket. It’s people who are looking at retraining or upskilling, which is exciting because if they’re studying here there is a greater chance we’ll be able to retain those skills locally.” 

“It’s also an exciting prospect for the families of those considering a move here for work – knowing they can continue to be lifelong learners in an accessible way as well.” 

While a building on its own is just a building it’s the people that have made the centre what it is today notes Adam: 

“Seeing the communities of practice forming particularly in Health and Education, is really encouraging, especially when you consider how valuable those connections will be professionally moving forward.” 

While every Country University Centre is designed differently based on community needs, with a local Board of Directors, Ulladulla’s has a strong sense of Indigenous culture. Local artists work creates a welcoming and inclusive space and plays an important role depicting nature – bringing the outside world in. 

Services are free for students to access, and facilities can be hired by local businesses -with all funds going back into supporting students. 

To find out more visit the Country Universities Centre website here.

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