Locals flocking to university as pandemic forces rethink
LOCALS are flocking to university as the pandemic leads to a big increase in applications at Southern Cross University.
Bachelor degrees in health and human sciences are leading the charge as year-on-year growth in domestic applications at the Coffs Harbour campus has risen by 23 per cent.
Senior manager of student management, Paul Robinson, said the numbers were "encouraging" and the courses attracting the most interest were nursing, occupational therapy and psychological science.
With the health sector coming to the fore during the pandemic, Mr Robinson said it was "not surprising" prospective students were gravitating towards an industry which has been deemed an essential service.
"Historical trends show when the economy is not doing well people turn towards education to upskill to try and help themselves in the medium to long term," he said.
"People are looking to retrain and some students are realising there is no traditional gap year on the cards because of the restrictions in travel.
"They are gravitating towards the essential areas of work where they know there might be more (job) security."
While the increase at the Coffs campus has been mirrored at SCU's Lismore and Gold Coast campuses, it is their online 'campus' which has seen the most dramatic rise.
Mr Robinson said a "good portion" of that cohort would be based in Coffs Harbour, with some keeping an eye on the possibility of coming back to campus when there is more certainty.
"Our online (cohort) - which is what we class as our biggest campus - has shown almost a 50 per cent increase," he said.
"Our postgraduate areas online have definitely seen a spike as well. Domestically, it is a healthy picture."
The news will come as some relief to the university, which has been forced into a major restructure following the disruption to the sector - mainly through a drop in international students - brought about by the pandemic.
The university reduced six academic schools to four faculties shedding 134 full-time equivalent positions since September.
A series of voluntary redundancies were quickly followed by a another round of cuts which the National Tertiary Education Union said was "catastrophic" for both staff, students and the community.
"The level demand for our courses in Session 3 represents the continuation of a very encouraging trend towards study in our regions, especially given this year has been one of the most challenging in the history of the University," said Mr Ben Roche, Vice President (Engagement).
Most popular degrees at SCU in session three:
• Bachelor Psychological Science - up 116 per cent.
• Master of Social Work - up 84 per cent.
• Bachelor of Nursing - up 81.2 per cent.
• Associate Degree in Law - up 27.8 per cent.
• Bachelor of Occupational Therapy - up 26 per cent.