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Lack of universities in the west means hours of travel for some students

Limited campus and local public transport options pose a major hurdle for students from Melbourne’s Western suburbs who want to study at university.

Melton Cr Bob Turner said there was a necessity and demand for more university options in the area.

“In the west, there is a predominance of young teenagers who really need this sort of education,” he said.

Cr Turner said the long travel times meant students weren’t as motivated to pursue further study options.

Anyone from Melton that wants to go to TAFE or university has to travel to Sunshine, if not the city.

“It’s a big ask for kids not engaging well at school to begin with.”

The Western Region has a population of about 879,000 and it’s expected that number will continue to grow by around 12 per cent, compared to 10 per cent across other metro regions.

There has been a 38 per cent population increase over the past decade as people have flocked to the “up and coming” area’s affordable housing and developing infrastructure.

As of 2019, there were 59,333 students in year 12 in Victoria with a predicted 40 per cent surge of secondary students in the West.

RMIT University student Sofia Soto said the area needed more university campuses to cater for the growing community.

“A lot of our suburbs are expanding, so considering the population growth, you’d think they’d look into building more universities,” she said.

Lack of universities in the west means hours of travel for some students

Younger generations are most likely to use public transport (Credit: Roy Morgan).

Recent timetable changes and bus replacements on train lines has also highlighted how travel for students in the outer suburbs has become even more of a hassle.

More than three million Melburnians use and rely on public transport to move around, with younger demographics more likely to use public transport than older generations. More than three million Millennials and 3.4 million Gen Z Australians reportedly use trains, trams and buses for travel.

This year the Sunbury line underwent numerous construction periods, which created significant delays and longer travel times for those relying on the service.

Ms Soto said with limited campuses in the West, travel time was a major factor when looking into her study options.

“All up, it takes me an hour and 10 [minutes] to get to campus in the city,” she said.

If I was going to a class on campus, I would have to be up at five to get there on time.

Ms Soto said the 2020 Covid-19 restrictions had created an even greater reliance on public transport as many 16–20-year-olds did not get the opportunity to learn how to drive or get their hours up during this time.

“I couldn’t drive at all last year,” she said.

“Bookings for lessons and tests have been backed-up from last year … my sister booked in January, for a driving lesson in June.”

Swinburne University student Dean Drossos said his public transport commute was also time-consuming.

“It takes me over an hour and a half to get to university and back … which doesn’t include the 20-minute walk it takes me to get to the station,” he said.

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