MORE than half of Tamworth high school students want to leave town after finishing year 12, while only one-quarter of the cohort would enrol in a locally-based uni, a comprehensive survey has found.
The results are in from a first-of-its-kind survey undertaken last year which gauged the professional and educational aspirations of more than 1400 Tamworth high school students.
The survey was conducted across independent and state schools through a collaboration between the city's careers advisors.
While the survey has illustrated what a typical Tamworth youth wants to pursue, it has also highlighted the lack of options on the ground and a lack of understanding about local opportunities.
According the report, 89 per cent of student knew "little to nothing about local industry".
However, agricultural courses were the most popular, including animal breeding, station hands, stock agents and veterinary nursing.
Nursing, psychology and creative jobs, like photography and design were the next most popular.
There was no interest in horticultural or environmental careers and little desire for corporate roles like human resources, business analysis and information technology, not related to gaming or design.
Some of the career options not selected, but of relevance to the Tamworth region, included manufacturing manager, retail salesperson, postal worker, construction manager and mining engineer.
While the city is rallying to establish a university campus, the survey revealed only one-quarter of current high school students would study at a Tamworth uni.
More than one-third (38 per cent) said they wouldn't study at a Tamworth campus, while 37 per cent were on the fence.
The survey found students were, however, overwhelmingly interested in having the opportunity to study healthcare courses locally, including nursing, medicine, midwifery, psychology and physiotherapy.
One in five students expressed a desire to study health courses locally.
Arts (11 per cent) and agriculture (10 per cent) courses were also popular prospective areas of tertiary study.
There were also a range of students who expressed interest in more TAFE courses being available locally and it was also noted there was a disconnect between the subjects offered at local institutes and the interests of students.
While the majority of students were planning on leaving Tamworth, only 16 per cent said they would not be interested in returning to work in the region, while 46 per cent would like to come back and a further 38 per cent would consider it.
It comes following a galvanised effort among the city's business and civic leaders to establish a fully-fledged university campus in Tamworth.
The state government has pledged $26 million to the cause and the pressure is on the federal government to help make it a reality.
Tamworth's councillors have it pegged as a major federal election issue putting the project on equal footing with water infrastructure in terms of priorities.
Acting mayor Phil Betts said a university would be paramount to the future growth of Tamworth, while other councillors feared the city was being left in the wake of other regional NSW cities.
Business chamber president Jye Segboer has previously said a university would bring unprecedented benefits to the city.
He said a campus would boost workforce numbers in town because it would allow more people to study close to home, while also positioning Tamworth as a destination for students which would, in turn, draw more people into the region.