Geraldton Universities Centre (GUC) has welcomed the focus on regional students and the potential for new models of delivery to increase university participation in regional areas in the Interim Report from the Australian Universities Accord Panel.
The Interim Report was released last week by Minister Jason Clare. It asserts Australia will need an additional 900,000 Commonwealth supported university students by 2050 to meet our workforce needs.
“The report says this will only be achieved if there is a very significant increase from groups currently underrepresented in higher education including those from rural and regional areas, low socio economic groups, First Nations people and students with a disability,” GUC Director Natalie Nelmes said.
“This is what GUC has been all about for the past 20 years supporting local people to complete their degree locally, providing a professional workforce for our region.”
One of the priority actions announced from the report is to fund more Regional University Centres (RUCs) in Australia.
“As the original Regional University Centre in Australia, GUC knows the opportunity this can open up for communities,” Ms Nelmes said.
“Truly reflecting the community’s needs though is the key. One size does not fit all in regional Australia.
“Study hubs will also be funded in outer-metropolitan areas. It will be important not to bring all centres under the same funding approach or confuse the very real needs of diverse regional communities with those of the outer metropolitan areas. Like all government programs, the devil will be in the detail.”
Ms Nelmes said GUC was excited about the prospect of a “universal learning entitlement” mooted by the report.
“This would mean all our regional students would be eligible for a Commonwealth Supported Place at university. This is what we called for in our submission to the Accord because it is crucial for the university partnerships that underpin the academic support provided at larger campus RUCs like GUC.
“Apart from providing the study facilities and general student supports of smaller hubs, GUC also offers face-to-face, academically supported courses locally. This additional course specific academic support is a particularly important equity measure in regional WA and SA where regionally headquartered universities do not exist.”
Ms Nelmes said GUC had a proven track record with this academically supported approach, having graduated 500 local people to work as nurses, teachers, accountants, social workers and more in the Mid West community.
“The Accord Panel is giving further consideration to “encouraging and incentivising new models of delivery and collaboration to increase tertiary education in regional and underserviced areas”. GUC really looks forward to putting our academic model forward again because this is certainly part of the solution and should be adequately reflected, and supported, in the university funding models and allied programs going forward.”
For more information, Natalie Nelmes 9920 4403, 0429 006 919.