University of Melbourne Abandoning Forestry at Creswick

19 October 2018

The University of Melbourne has proposed drastic changes to the School of Forestry in Creswick, which would see a majority of classes relocated from the historic campus to Parkville. The move follows declining enrolments in recent years, and forestry courses being shut down nationwide.

At present, the University of Melbourne remains the only institution to offer a specialised forestry education, based in Creswick.

The University is proposing to replace the current Master of Forest Ecosystem Science, which is based primarily in Creswick, with the Master of Ecosystem Management and Conservation, which is intended to be taught in Parkville.

Despite assurances from the University that the Creswick campus will continue to be supported, concerned staff, students, and members of the Creswick community have prepared a petition to save the campus. With the future of forestry at Creswick thrown into doubt, the petition has gained 803 signatures as of October 2018.

The petition reflects the concerns of the community that the University is turning its back on rural education.

“It is my belief that these changes also have the potential to eventually lead to its closure, and the end of tertiary education in Creswick,” said Leon Holt, forester and Creswick graduate. Holt is pioneering the effort to prevent the changes to the campus, leading the formal request to the University to reconsider the proposed changes.

The welcome sign to the historic town of Creswick reads: “Home of Forestry”. Melbourne University’s campus, which opened in 1910, holds a central place in Creswick history and identity. Affectionately labelled the “school on the hill”, the rural campus offers students a unique opportunity to develop a connection to the local community and native wildlife—a connection that can’t be made at Parkville.

“Courses like forestry should be taught at rural campuses like Creswick, where the forests actually are, not in the middle of Melbourne,” Holt said.

The University has stated it expects enrolment in the degree to increase, by broadening the Masters and appealing to students primarily interested in environmental conservation. By basing the new course in Parkville, the University aims to attract students who would not be interested in studying at a rural campus.

“Small communities depend on institutions like Melbourne Uni. Without their support young people in these areas will feel even less supported in navigating their academic pathways,” said Cecilia Stewart, a second year Arts student originally from nearby town, Ararat.

The campus once boasted a population of around 120 staff and students, a number which now dwindled to just 30.

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