Ballarat and region have a long, proud and continuous public education and training history through the Ballarat Mechanics Institute, the School of Mines and Industries, and in the past two decades, the University of Ballarat.
As a researcher who studies equity and access in vocational and adult education internationally I am acutely aware of and gravely concerned about the many negative and likely long-term consequences of the Baillieu government's recently-announced cuts to funding of TAFE courses and institutes across regional Victoria.
This impact includes the wellbeing of individuals, families and communities.
I am alarmed at the imminent and likely loss of many excellent courses, campuses, institutions, expertise, jobs and opportunities right across Victoria, including those run by my own, proud, dual-sector university.
These cuts are sudden, savage and unwarranted, other than to provide further, very dubious private contestibility in already thin regional education markets.
They will leave many students, families, communities and industries struggling to access or complete courses in an already-flat regional economy, and lead private training providers in a race to the vocational bottom.
With one quarter of people across our region aged under 20 years, and more than one quarter over 55, it is essential that we provide pathways not only to keep young people in our region and to train and retrain workers, but also provide opportunities to learn above and beyond paid work.
One half of existing workers have completed no accredited course since leaving school, and one third of the adult population is functionally illiterate, rising to two thirds by age 65.
We are not proving to be very smart about our education in 2012. By contrast, free public provision of all education in Scandinavia produces the best lifelong education outcomes in the world, robust industries and citizens for life.
We privatise what remains of our proud vocational education heritage at our peril. When public TAFE and adult education opportunities are gone, what public lifelong learning is left?
Professor Barry Golding, University of Ballarat