Minister for Education Julia Gillard today announced funding of $150,000 for the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council to undertake a Tertiary Education Feasibility Study for the NSW Mid North Coast.
Ms Gillard said the study would investigate ways to encourage more local secondary students into courses provided by local tertiary education providers.
The program will have a particular emphasis on encouraging residents from low socio-economic backgrounds to take up tertiary education – whether that is at university, TAFE or a different vocational training provider.
The research will also help identify ways we can improve the transition from school to TAFE and university to make sure more people from the Mid North Coast get the best possible education available.
Ms Gillard said the development of tertiary education in the region would ultimately lead to increased productivity and better employment opportunities for generations to come.
It will also help future students get better jobs and earn better wages.
The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has identified the NSW Mid North Coast as an area of low socio-economic status and strong population growth and limited supply of connected educational pathways.
It is also an area that has a relatively low percentage of bachelor-level qualifications at 11 per cent for 25 to 34 year olds.
The program, which is expected to start in the next month and finish in late 2010, will aim to increase tertiary participation rates in the region by up to 500 students a year until 2025.
The program will serve as a pilot for future research in areas where tertiary attendance is low.
Ms Gillard said the study will support the Rudd Labor Government’s national target to see 40 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds with bachelor-level qualifications or above by 2025.
It will also help achieve the Government’s goal to see 20 per cent of all university enrolments filled by low SES students by 2020 and the Council of Australian Government’s goal to double the number of diploma and advanced diploma completions between 2009 and 2020.