The Universities Centre unveiled

AFTER several months of construction, Cooma's new high-tech tertiary learning centre has been unveiled to the public.

The Cooma Universities Centre opened its doors on Tuesday after the building, the former Business Enterprise Centre (BEC), underwent a major $500,000 revamp.

While the exterior was kept largely the same, the interior was unrecognisable.

Snowy Hydro spent the money to refit the building with all the amenities needed for the distance education learning centre.

It is bright, fresh and modern. There is a main study space, decked out with 20 computers, two small meeting rooms and a large video conferencing rooms.

There is a social space with a kitchenette including items such as microwave oven and fridge and bathroom facilities.

The centre will be operational from February 2013 and will provide university level distance education opportunities to the region.

Anyone enrolled in a university course can use the facility. There will be a nominal fee of $90 per semester.

It is anticipated that from 2014 universities will run some courses and lectures directly from the centre with sufficient support and interest from the local community.

This would require about six to 10 students interested in the same course at the same time.

There was a buzz of excitement at the open day and the possibilities this would lead to for Cooma.

The project, funded by Snowy Hydro and supported by Cooma Monaro Shire Council, has been described as the first step to Cooma becoming a fully fledged university town.

Snowy Hydro CEO and managing director Terry Charlton said if there was enough interest and demand in the facility it would highlight the need for a possible full university campus in the region.

Mayor Dean Lynch described the initiative as one of the most exciting things to happen in Cooma for some time.

"It is a huge transformation from what was formerly the BEC," he said.

"It is pleasing to see the former council with a progressive idea come to fruition."

"This is the first step to Cooma becoming an education town."

There has already been strong interest from several universities including University of New England, Charles Sturt University and the University of Newcastle.

Distance support coordinator at the University of Newcastle Liz Goode viewed the facility on Tuesday.

She said she was looking to see if the university could utilize the facility for their students in the future.

"I think it's a wonderful initiative," she said.

"I look forward to having some students from the area in the future."

Over the next few months Cr Lynch and Mr Charlton will promote the project to potential long term university partners.

A universities expo is due to take place at the centre in February 2013 with potential university partners to highlight the various education course available.

Between now and February Snowy Hydro will recruit staff who will be responsible for operating the building and providing students support.

A Cooma University Centre brand and image will also be developed.

The centre will cost about $200,000 to operate per year.

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