Pic source: The Australian newspaper (Picture: Robert Lang Source: Supplied)
BY Kylar Loussikian
The federal government has signalled it is willing to consider changes to access incentives for rural and regional students, a week after the HES revealed a substantial number of Coalition MPs were pushing for action as an interdepartmental inquiry into regional participation in higher education draws to a close.
“The government is aware that students from regional and remote areas can face a range of additional barriers in accessing higher education,” Education Minister Simon Birmingham said yesterday.
“The government will consider how it responds to these ­issues once it receives the final ­report.
“The government is committed to ensuring that students from all walks of life can ­access a quality higher education and receive the same level of ­government support.”
The government’s entry into the debate comes as Universities Australia adds to calls for new measures to increase the number of students from regional and remote areas, pointing to a lower-than-average number of young Australians with bachelor-level degrees.
“All Australians, regardless of their socioeconomic background, postcode, ethnicity, gender, ­disability or religion, with the ability to successfully complete a university qualification should have the opportunity to do so,” the UA’s newly released policy paper reads.
The paper cites the introduction of the demand-driven system as a catalyst for the increasing number of students from regional and rural areas attending ­university.
“While the participation of disadvantaged students in higher education has grown across all equity groups, the increase has been uneven. We need to further raise the number of students from regional and remote areas.”
UA’s policy paper also points to new models for the flexible ­delivery of higher education to ­regional students.
Duncan Taylor, chairman of the Cooma Universities Centre, funded by local authorities and Snowy Hydro, said cost-effective and flexible solutions could make a difference. The CUC, in Cooma, NSW, provides support for locally based university students, allowing them to remain near home while studying.
“Some students are unwilling or unable, for financial and for many other reasons, to leave their communities. The support we provide means they can stay local while studying,” Mr Taylor said.
In its three years, the CUC has helped 137 students studying 34 qualifications at 26 universities.