FedUni: another era in the history of higher education in Ballarat

TWENTY years after becoming the University of Ballarat and more than 140 years after the establishment of the School of Mines, Federation University Australia is the latest incarnation of higher education in Ballarat.

After much toil, as well as considerable debate over what name the new institution should take on, today marks the official first day of Federation University. 

Acting vice-chancellor Rowena Coutts has been with the institution for about 22 years, extending to before it became the University of Ballarat.

“Exactly 20 years ago, January 1994, we became the University of Ballarat,” she said. “That was about gaining independence from being Ballarat University College. The next step is being a regional university.”

As Australia’s third-oldest university, Federation University dates back to 1870 and the establishment of the School of Mines in Ballarat.

It split into two organisations in the 1960s, the School of Mines and the Ballarat Institute of Advanced Education, before changing to Ballarat College of Advanced Education in the 1970s. That institution became affiliated with Melbourne University in 1989, changing its name again to Ballarat University College.

In 1994, the University of Ballarat became its own independent institution and was formed by an act of the Victorian parliament. 

Earlier this year, the University of Ballarat announced that it was merging with Monash University’s Gippsland campus to create a regional university.

Twenty years after the creation of UB, Ms Coutts said Federation University was an even bigger concept.

“It started off as higher education for Ballarat, but now it has expanded and is multi-sectoral, multi-campus and multi-location,” she said.

 “I can’t believe the growth and what’s happened in the time I’ve been here.”

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