The Liberal Nationals Government is committed to driving increased participation in higher education for regional and remote students.
Minister for Education Dan Tehan said the Government accepted the aims of the seven key recommendations made in the National Regional, Rural and Remote Higher Education Strategy released today.
Mr Tehan said the Government would consult on the 33 specific actions and respond in due course. Many of the actions involve a different approach to current policy settings, require possible reform of the sector and budgetary considerations. These actions also require engagement with state and territory governments and different portfolio areas.
The Hon Dr Denis Napthine MP chaired the expert advisory group that led the review and made seven recommendations:
- Improve access to tertiary study options for students in regional, rural and remote areas.
- Improve access to financial support, to support greater fairness and more equal opportunity.
- Improve the quality and range of student support services for regional, rural and remote students to address the challenges of transition and higher rates of attrition.
- Build aspiration, improve career advice and strengthen regional, rural and remote schools to better prepare students for success.
- Improve participation and outcomes for regional, rural and remote students from equity groups including low SES students, Indigenous students, students with disability and remote students.
- Strengthen the role of tertiary education providers in regional development and grow Australia’s regions.
- Establish mechanisms to coordinate the implementation effort and support monitoring of the Strategy.
"Since 2016, our Government has invested more than $500 million in additional new funding to improve support for regional and remote education. This investment includes more university places at regional universities, opening Regional Study Hubs to support students to remain in their communities, and scholarships for regional students to attend university," Mr Tehan said.
"Almost 90 per cent of university graduates are in full-time work with a median salary of $70,000 within three years of graduating and our Government believes that every Australian, no matter where they live, should have the opportunity to get a degree that leads to a good job.
"However, there are more than double the young Australians with a university degree living in our major cities than living in regional areas and students in regional and remote areas who are in higher education have completion rates that are between six and 15 per cent lower than their metropolitan counterparts.
"The Napthine Review will inform our Government’s continued focus on bridging the divide between city and country students.
"We will give further consideration to all of the action items in conjunction with our work reshaping the higher education architecture. Our Government also acknowledges Dr Napthine’s recommendation that delivering the strategy is a ten-year proposition."
Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government Mark Coulton said ensuring rural and regional students and families were able to access education that delivered opportunities on-par with those of city students was a priority for the Liberal Nationals Government.
"To encourage people to live in the regions, we need to ensure that there is adequate access to quality education, improved connectivity to access online education and a bigger range of support services and career advice to help rural students make the right choices," Mr Coulton said.
"This Government knows that leaving home to undertake tertiary studies in a capital city can be challenging for students and families, which is why we’re committed to establishing more Regional Study Hubs and increasing regional university places.
"Research shows that students who undertake their studies in rural areas are more likely to stay, meaning they contribute to the local economy and social fabric of an area and help to make our regions a great place to live, work and do business."
Dr Napthine said the report proposed a strategy that aimed to reduce the disparity between country students and their city cousins.
"As a former regional MP and a lifetime rural resident, I am acutely aware of the additional challenges our children from the country face in accessing and gaining higher education qualifications," Dr Napthine said.
"We want to ensure all students from regional, rural and remote areas, regardless of personal circumstances and geography, have the same opportunities to access higher education as city students."