Mon. May 27th, 2024

This week’s New England Times Poll was asking about the proposed UNE Tamworth campus, following on form our story on the confusion about the progress of the development.

The results were fairly decisive, showing little support for the concept of a university campus at all, let alone specifically a UNE one.

Asked to rate how important it was for Tamworth to have a university campus from 1 to 10, 40% said 1 – not important at all. 74% of respondents gave it a score less than 5. Just 14% of respondents scored it as 9 or 10 – very important. The average score was 3.4.

When we exclude Armidale people, still 51% say it’s not important for Tamworth to have a university campus. If we only look at people within Tamworth proper – the 2340 postcode – still 30% of respondents say it’s not important, and only 10% of Tamworth respondents gave it a 10 – very important.

Asked if UNE should have a campus outside of Armidale, the results were also not good for the proponents of the Tamworth Campus, with 56% saying no.

If we remove Armidale from the equation there is a reversal of fortunes, with 53% saying yes, UNE should have a campus outside of Armidale. And if we just look at Tamworth, that number climbs to 70% of respondents.

In the third question, we challenged one of the primary claims of those pushing the campus, which is that more Tamworth people will go to university if there is a university campus in town.

This was a bit of a dead heat, with 46% saying it will make no difference and 47% saying more or much more likely. Exclude Armidale and ‘no difference drops to 37%, with 58% of respondents would be more or much more likely to go to university. Tamworth only is not much different to the rest of the region, with just a slight uptick to 65% saying people will be more or much more likely.

Armidale people obviously have a different view of the issue, because they know what having a university in town does and how it affects the education of the local population. And, as pretty much anyone who has ever worked in university recruitment will tell you, at best 30% of local students will go to their home university. The why was actually best annunciated by a Tamworth respondent:

Situated just south of Armidale (UNE) and not that far north of Newcastle (UoN) Tamworth university will not hold kids’ home as it is a rite of passage, for many, for get out of town find your own way and never look back. Uni will need to have courses no other Uni offers of it is to retain or attract kids from local of further afield.
Tamworth man, aged 45-54

Others pointed to this being an old argument and doomed to fail (again).

I lived in Tamworth my entire life and this is an argument that has been going on for literally decades. Tamworth has always wanted to have what Armidale has and UNE was always the one thing Tamworth couldn’t get. To think that a town an hour away “needs” to have a campus is ridiculous. It won’t keep people in Tamworth. Fix up the public transport system and enable people to travel more easily between Armidale and Tamworth and encourage more interaction at the Tamworth study centre and the result will be the same. Tamworth doesn’t need to keep trying to decimate Armidale just because it’s bigger. A UNE campus is, unfortunately, destined to fail.
Tamworth woman, aged 45-54

Stupid. UNE had classes in Tamworth in the early 1990s. These were ill-attended and cancelled after a few years.
Armidale man, aged 65-74

Even those highly supportive of having a university in Tamworth generally were a bit dubious about this proposal.

It is a good idea. However the location for the UNE campus at the veledrome site is the wrong location. There is no room for expansion as it is bordered by roads and the floodbank and river, no parking, no public transport.
Tamworth man aged 35-44

I think it’s a great idea! But I don’t think the uni should be in such a confined space near Woolies Eastpoint I believe it would benefit for having more then one uni campus and have the uni spread out! Also having a bus service from the uni creates more jobs for the bus companies! And more business for both the bus companies and the uni!!
Tamworth woman aged 18-24

I wish it was going to be bigger. It hasn’t gotten a substantial amount of funding and it’s going on a small block. I fear it’s only going to be small, one building, maybe one to two stories tall. TAFE and the high schools here will be bigger than this. Tamworth deserves better. It deserves a campus at the scale of University of New England in Armidale or the Southern Cross University in Coffs Harbour. Unfortunately, what’s currently planned will not be this. It’ll just be one building, on a small block.
Tamworth man aged 18-24

Plenty of people in Tamworth see through the claims about education and know exactly what’s going on.

The TRC push for a campus is an economic activity, not an educational one. Promising courses that UNE doesn’t have the capacity to deliver is not a considered plan. The original plan as it was understood was conceived prior to a cap was imposed on student numbers by the Feds because then it was lucrative for any university to put up campuses in major towns to grow “business”. The story totally changed after the cap came in but the UNE council and execs had no idea about education, let alone about business.
Tamworth woman, aged 55-64

Accomodation was a significant concern for many respondents: both the cost of accomodation as a barrier for Tamworth locals, preventing them from going to university, and the need for student accomodation in Tamworth if the campus goes ahead, because there isn’t enough accomodation for locals. Better public transport between Tamworth and Armidale to allow for commuting was proposed as an alternative.

Many Armidale residents also raised that the main UNE campus is still in need of repair following the damage of the tornado 18 months ago, and argued that if there is campus funding available it should be used for that. There’s a few other aspects of their house they need to get in order… and of course, there isn’t a shortage of capacity at the Armidale campus.

if UNE were overflowing it would make more sense but UNE Armidale campus is struggling. We need to build and strengthen the Armidale campus first.
Armidale woman, aged over 75

UNE should be focused on repairing its damaged reputation and slide into mediocrity. 
Armidale woman, aged 55-64

I would like to see more effort going into rebuilding confidence in UNE as an employer and as an educational institution. I would like to see a focus on rebuilding student numbers on campus in Armidale. It seems crazy to consider expansion when the home base lacks stability.
Armidale woman, aged 45-54

I suspect there have been lots of underhanded behaviour at every juncture with this whole proposal. A few names come to mind of people who have pushed this barrow for no other reason than what’s best for them & not the region. UNE has been bled dry over decades of self interest & incompetence. It is in no position to support a Tamworth campus when the university itself is struggling badly with flow on effects into our town. I understand the argument that another university will willingly claim the Tamworth space. Have other less expensive options been discussed? Let’s build UNE back as a university of choice & repute before backing the self interested dreams of others.
Armidale woman, aged 65-74

All students at UNE Armidale study online. Tamworth will be getting an empty building.
Armidale woman, aged 55-64

Thank you to everyone who participated in this week’s New England Times Poll. Our next poll is about the election! Have your say here https://s.surveyplanet.com/vo6nh9lh

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