Trans­port ob­sta­cle to STEM strat­egy

Mercury (Hobart) - - FOOTY FEVER - Les Craw­ford Cygnet Bob Cot­grove Mt Nel­son

ALL Aus­tralian uni­ver­si­ties, as with in­sti­tu­tions in other OECD coun­tries, are fos­ter­ing science, tech­nol­ogy, engineering and math­e­mat­ics (STEM) sub­jects as a strat­egy to at­tract stu­dents and en­hance their in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion. For sev­eral decades, the Univer­sity of Tas­ma­nia has fought to ar­rest the de­cline of STEM cour­ses among young stu­dents who lack the ap­ti­tude or in­ter­est to tackle what are com­monly seen as dif­fi­cult or bor­ing sub­jects. The UTAS push to de­velop a $400 mil­lion STEM com­plex in Ho­bart’s CBD rests on the as­sump­tion that a cen­tral lo­ca­tion is more ac­ces­si­ble by bus than the Sandy Bay cam­pus and there­fore will lead po­ten­tially to a vast in­crease of stu­dents from outer sub­urbs. Apart from the fact the mar­ket for new STEM stu­dents is more likely to be adults seek­ing to in­crease their em­ploy­ment skills, stu­dents are no dif­fer­ent from the rest of so­ci­ety in favour­ing cars over buses. Uni­ver­si­ties are no longer 9-5 places of study and stu­dents need trans­port to ac­cess other ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing their busy lives. The univer­sity’s ide­o­log­i­cal ob­jec­tion to stu­dents us­ing cars has led to Dyn­nyrne and be­yond be­com­ing a gi­ant off-cam­pus stu­dent car park. Given the cost and lack of park­ing in Ho­bart’s CBD, the fore­cast of masses of new stu­dents trav­el­ling from the outer sub­urbs by bus is un­re­al­is­tic. The ex­pec­ta­tion of a Ho­bart CBD re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion based on STEM has the smell of a cargo cult “build it and they will come” fan­tasy.

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