SA Best has promised to support a tertiary education study hub in the Upper Spencer Gulf if successful at the March 17 state election.
Local access to higher education would assist the region in growing a local, skilled workforce, according to Port Augusta Mayor and SA Best Upper House candidate Sam Johnson.
Mr Johnson said the initiative is based on similar models used in Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland.
“The Upper Spencer Gulf has some of the most significant mineral and renewable energy resources, natural biodiversity and landscapes in the world,” he said.
“We have enormous potential to capitalise on these strengths, with new opportunities rapidly emerging.”
The Upper Spencer Gulf Common Purpose Group, chaired by Mr Johnson, made university study centres in the region a top priority, meeting with state government Ministers about the issue in January.
Mr Johnson said he has received several reports about the lack of technical capacity in the region potentially hindering future growth and economic diversification.
“Only 11 per cent of adults in the Upper Spencer Gulf hold an above certificate level qualification compared to the South Australian average of 23 per cent,” he said.
“Our aim is to establish tertiary education centres where students studying a range of courses, at a range of different universities, can come together locally with the tutorial, student and industry support they need to help them succeed.
“There are fantastic facilities in our regional centres that are under-utilised.”
Mr Johnson said there is evidence that shows face-to-face support, rather than online education, can increase tertiary completion rates to well over 80 per cent.
SA Best Leader Nick Xenophon believes the current higher education model in South Australia is becoming a “real barrier for workforce development.”