A Country Universities Centre will be established in Kempsey to provide local higher education study for students across the Macleay Valley, it was announced today.
Kempsey was selected as a potential site for the centre in late 2019, with Kempsey Shire Council's support behind the project.
It was announced today that State and Federal Government funding has been allocated to establishing the centre in the heart of Kempsey.
Kemspey Shire Mayor and Country Universities Centre Macleay Valley Board Chairperson Liz Campbell said this project has been in the planning stages for 10 years.
"This is one of those days for the Macleay Valley where you just say yes, we've done it," she said.
"Having a university presence is something we have been striving to achieve for about a decade. We looked at different models to get higher education in our valley, and we know that the Country Universities Centre model will be right for the Macleay.
"With the support of the State and Federal Governments working with council, the community board and the Country Universities Centre model, we will have a university centre in the Kemspey CBD."
Federal Member for Cowper Pat Conaghan said the centre will provide improved education and employment opportunities for young people in the Macleay Valley.
"This has been a long time coming for Kempsey and it's a very deserving community to be given this opportunity," he said.
"I want young people living in Kempsey and the Macleay Valley to have the same study options as their city counterparts, so that young people don't have to move to Newcastle or Sydney to gain higher education.
"Kempsey people will understand what it means for us to be able to have this for our young people."
State member for Oxley Melinda Pavey said there will be nothing stopping local students from fulfilling their career goals once the centre is up and running.
"From a room in Kempsey local students will now be on their way to a lifelong journey and a multitude of career opportunities," she said.
"Country Universities is all about the mechanisms of online studying and will make higher education more accessible to local kids."
The Country Universities Centre will create a dedicated learning and study space where students will have free access to high-speed internet, modern technology, and academic support. Students will have the opportunity to build a network of like-minded fellow students and can take advantage of being part of a state-wide learning community.
The centre will be located in Kempsey Central and requires a space of around 800 square metres.
"We looked at a number of different areas for the centre. It needs to be accessible to students from 7am to 12am, seven days a week. The best place for the centre to be situated is Kempsey Central because it's also in the middle of the CBD," Mayor Campbell said.
The project was only made possible due to all three levels of government working together.
"Both council and the Country Universities Centre Board have long recognised that local education is fundamental to our community," Mayor Campbell said.
"This wouldn't have been possible without the State and Federal Government funding for the establishment of the centre. I would also like to thank Country Universities Centre CEO Duncan Taylor and general manager Douglas Martin, my fellow board members and Kempsey Shire Council staff for making this project a reality."
The establishment of the centre will begin in the coming weeks and it will be operational for semester 1, 2021.
Conditions of the grant and the precise investment amounts from each level of government are still being determined.