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Newcastle Herald

Newcastle uni eyes greener pastures for expansion

Opportunity knocks: The university of Newcastle is looking to partner with South Australian universities, TAFE and industry to expand into viticulture.

The University of Newcastle will significantly increase its offerings in hospitality and tourism, agricultural science and wine making as part of its plans to expand its presence in the Upper Hunter.

While the Upper Hunter has traditionally supplied a significant proportion of the university's domestic students, the institution's presence in the region has been relatively thin on the ground.

The university has identified Upper Hunter as an area of increasing importance in coming decades.

Work is underway on a business case to establish an international hotels school, potentially as part of a partnership.

"TAFE has got facilities at Kurri Kurri and we have got some facilities at Ourimbah. There's also some potential to do some things here (Callaghan) and in the city as part of the redevelopment. It would be spread across various sites," Vice Chancellor Alex Zelinsky said.

Likewise, the university is also working on a new partnership with Tocal Agricultural College, which is operated by the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

"We see that we could actually add value to students who want to pursue tertiary qualifications in ag science," Professor Zelinsky said.

"Likewise, our students could really benefit from doing hands-on work or getting more hands-on courses as part of their degree. It's all part of this blended work that we're working very hard to do with TAFE."

It's a model of cross-institutional blended learning that the vice-chancellor sees as being relevant to other disciplines, such as engineering.

As an example, he said electrical engineering students were once able to gain an electrician's certificate by taking additional TAFE subjects.

"We need to reinstate those types of relationships where TAFE students can do some of our subjects and we can do some of theirs to pick up relevant qualifications," he said.

On another front, the university is working to form partnerships with the region's wine industry.

Several South Australian universities in addition to TAFE and local industry are among the potential partners.

"It really surprised me when I arrived here that the university did not have a bachelor of viticulture. Our goal is to create totally integrated training for the wine industry that will complement the hospitality school," he said.

The university's campus-based restaurant, Local Connections, is another vehicle that will be used to expand into the hospitality and viticulture sectors.

"People understand everything post-COVID needs to be produced locally, people want to know where their food came from and that it was ethically produced. There's also going to be jobs (in this sector) and we believe the Hunter is going to be one of the prime locations," Professor Zelinsky said.

The Hunter, with its close proximity to Sydney means that we have got the opportunity to expand into those areas and work with existing providers and industry to fill a niche and to bring cohesiveness to it."