Rural campus praised

By Ash Witoslawski

A rural campus is a ‘‘fantastic opportunity’’ for agriculture students, according to the University of Melbourne’s new vice-chancellor Professor Duncan Maskell.

Prof Maskell said he was delighted to visit the Dookie Campus, not only due to his strong interest in agriculture and food production, but also to see a new part of Victoria.

‘‘I’m really excited to be here actually,’’ he said on Friday.

‘‘It’s the first time we’ve travelled this far up north from the city. This campus is very interesting.’’

Prof Maskell said the Dookie Campus provided real-life experience for students interested in agricultural industries.

‘‘The really good thing about this place is the way that we can have great students in one of the top universities in the country also spending time in a rural environment and learning about agriculture in the place where it really happens and embedding in the industry,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s terrifically important.

‘‘If you’re sitting in a lecture theatre studying wheat varieties or whatever it is, it’s just a picture on the wall; but if you get out in the country and see a big field of it growing then you really understand what it’s all about.

‘‘Having a campus embedded in the agricultural industry is a fantastic opportunity for students to do interesting research in collaboration with the industry in the area where it matters.’’

Prof Maskell started as vice-chancellor on October 1, 2018, moving on from the position of senior pro-vice-chancellor at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

While at Cambridge, he held a number of leadership roles, including Head of the Department of Veterinary Medicine, Head of the School of the Biological Sciences, and the Marks and Spencer Professor of Farm and Animal Heath, Food Science and Food Safety in the Department of Veterinary Medicine.

An interest and priority for Prof Maskell is a deeper understanding and appreciation of indigenous populations within education.

He was delighted to see the Indigenous Seed Orchard as he arrived at the Dookie Campus on Friday morning.

‘‘I really hope to weave in and embed the Aboriginal knowledge and understanding of the land into what we do here and to create a proper partnership in those terms as well,’’ he said.

Prof Maskell stressed the importance of higher education as a priority in Australia, and welcomed the Federal Government’s recent announcement of $6.6million for expanded accommodation and medical training facilities in Shepparton.

‘‘Any opportunity to further enhance the student experience at a campus like Dookie through better accommodation is a really positive thing.’’

After touring Dookie Campus, Prof Maskell visited the University of Melbourne’s Rural Clinical School in Shepparton before celebrating the school’s 20th anniversary in the evening.

—Ash Witoslawski