This week’s report by a House of Representatives committee, Regions at the Ready: Investing in Australia’s Future, highlights just how central universities are to boost regional prosperity.
Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said the report’s commentary was another powerful reminder that strong universities are the driving forces in regional development.
“Strong regional universities are the beating heart of many regional communities and economies,” Ms Jackson said.
“They help to keep young people in our regions, educate regional workforces, attract new residents, foster regional industries, drive local growth and innovation, maintain essential community facilities, and help regional communities to thrive,” she said.
“Yet, with each passing day, the university funding freeze will cut off more of that vital blood supply.”
The report notes the importance of sustained Government investments to maintain a “universal base level of service and amenity” and capacity building in education and training.
“Ending the funding freeze and restoring Australia’s uncapped system of university places is the fairest way to realise that vision of universal access,” Ms Jackson said.
“Remember regional Australians are half as likely on average to have a university education compared with city dwellers. We have no chance of closing that gap if the freeze continues.”
The report also notes a role for “catalytic investments” by Government which build a critical mass in a sector — particularly where they entice further business investment or co-location.
“That’s precisely why the proposed closure of the $3.8 billion Education Investment Fund makes no sense,” Ms Jackson said.
“EIF is the last remaining source of capital funds for growth-generating education and research facilities – the exact sort of facilities that can attract further investment in our regions.”