Universities Australia made a submission to the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee's inquiry into Rural and Regional access to Secondary and Tertiary Education Opportunities.
Australia's university system embraces the belief that all Australians of ability should have access to their choice of university, whether that university is located in a regional or metropolitan area. A key element of this choice is promoting the availability of high quality university education within rural and regional areas.
Australia's renowned regional universities allow students to stay in, or move to, regional areas to study, and in doing so help develop a skilled professional regional labour force. Such students usually work while studying, may undertake work-integrated learning and on graduating often remain in regional areas. Some regional universities have been in existence for half a century or more, attract many students from metropolitan areas and overseas and have deserved international reputations for innovative approaches to teaching and research. A well known example is the University of New England's pioneering of distance education from the 1970s, while contemporary examples include James Cook Universities' research concentration in tropical health and science and Charles Darwin University's expertise in Indigenous issues.
A list of regionally-based universities, and other universities with regional campuses, is at Attachment A.
Another vital element of promoting choice for regional students is ensuring that adequate support is available for those students who need to move considerable distances from their current home to attend their preferred course and university. Both regional and metropolitan universities have invested heavily in on and off-campus accommodation, employment services, academic support, orientation guides and other means to smooth the way for incoming students - particularly those students, such as those from remote areas, for whom the university environment may initially be challenging. More could undoubtedly be done in this area, and universities are working with government to examine innovative options that could address some of these issues. These could include an Education Investment Fund equivalent or supplementation for accommodation projects, or consideration of public-private partnerships with business and universities during current financing difficulties.
To read the full submission, download the PDF below.