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Scholarships will give disadvantaged a competitive edge

Higher education stakeholders will be given a say on how the Australian Government can best roll out the Scholarships for a Competitive Future initiative - a commitment to double the number of Commonwealth Scholarships for undergraduate students by 2012, benefiting those most in need.

Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard today released a discussion paper on the initiative, inviting comment from higher education providers, peak bodies, and state and territory education bodies.

The new scholarships outlined in the paper will assist students from low socio-economic backgrounds, especially those from regional and remote areas and Indigenous students, giving all eligible Australians an opportunity to gain a first class education.

The Scholarships for a Competitive Future initiative includes two key components:

The new National Priority Scholarships - to assist students to undertake courses in priority areas such as medicine and engineering.The new National Accommodation Scholarships - to help students relocate to another state and enrol in courses not available near their home.

Getting to university can be very tough for some people, and these scholarships will provide much needed support.

The Rudd Government wants to make sure that, through our universities, we educate young Australians to ensure they have the skills to make Australia a more productive and prosperous nation.

The Government is also encouraging the participation of students from disadvantaged groups in higher education through its support of the new National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education at the University of South Australia. $630,000 will be provided in establishment costs and $590,000 annually in operating costs.

The Centre will implement and research best practice in social inclusion at university, and act as a national repository of funding initiatives and programmes.

The closing date for submissions to the scholarships discussion paper is COB 1 May 2008. The paper is available from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations' website