The study, commissioned by the Regional Universities Network, found universities contributed to their regions through teaching and learning; research and innovation and service.
Regional universities provide jobs, collaborate with local industry to innovate, fill gaps in regional health care and provide pathways to expand access to higher education for students from a low socioeconomic background and for Indigenous students, the study shows.
Universities Australia’s Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said the report, Regional Universities Network: Engaging with regions, building a stronger nation, demonstrated the central role played by universities in their local regions.
“Regional Universities are the economic, social and cultural hubs of their regions. They are the bridges to further development of their regions at a time when many of our rural areas are losing population and services”, Ms Robinson said.
Universities Australia recognises the importance of universities in regions with advertising targeting regional newspapers as part of the Smartest Investment public awareness campaign, which has been running nationally since February this year.
“The regional advertising recognises that our universities are pillars of their local economies and communities, helping to drive employment, skills and research as well as providing services.
In the regions, universities employ over 10,000 Australians, educate over 100,000 students and contribute around $2 billion a year to local economies.”
Ms Robinson backed calls for regional universities to play an enhanced role in their regions to ensure future development.
“In some cases universities could be an even more significant resource for their local regions, helping to boost economic, social and cultural activities by becoming a deeper part of the policy framework of governments at all levels.
This could include closer collaboration between universities and government and industry in the regions”, Ms Robinson concluded.