Go8 Submission to Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education

11 Sep 2017

This submission sets out, at a high level, the position of the Group of Eight providing an overview of the significant contribution we make to rural, regional and remote education and communities along with key recommendations. The Go8 welcomes this review and the opportunity to highlight the wealth of programs and initiatives being taken by our universities to support access to world-leading educational opportunities for all. Our footprint in regional areas is significant, contributing greatly to regional economic development and improving the quality of life of regional Australians. Our cutting-edge research delivers innovative solutions to a wide range of issues affecting regional communities.

The key recommendations of the Go8 submission are:

  • That the Senate block the current Higher Education Reform Bill as this puts at risk a broad range of university capacity-building, including highly successful equity programs.
  • That the Federal Government ensure that policies to support higher educational outcomes for regional students are well-designed, and adequately and consistently funded.
  • To ensure Australia’s medical workforce is adequate to meet regional needs, the Federal and State governments should work together to support medical graduates to complete specialist training in regional locations.
  • The Federal Government continue to invest in equity programs over the long-term to support regional and remote students, including by increasing the value of the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) to $205.1 million per year (as forecast in the 2012/13 budget for 2015/16 year).
  • The Federal Government review eligibility criteria for Youth Allowance and other linked student income support programs to ensure that they provide an appropriate level of support for students from regional areas. Experience from Go8 suggests a key factor deterring disadvantaged students from attending university is not course costs, but up front living costs while studying, such as rent and food.
  • That the Federal Government reverse its decision to abolish the Education Investment Fund to provide greater headroom for universities to make new capital investments, in rural, regional and remote areas.
  • That the Federal Government provide incentives that encourage an adequate supply of purpose-built student accommodation for rural, regional and remote students.
Executive Summary

Group of Eight universities make a significant national contribution to the education of regional and remote students across Australia. Our universities are particularly strong in fields that are of importance to regional and remote Australia. We invest substantially in outreach to regional communities to inspire more young Australians to pursue post-secondary education.

Once regional students come to our universities, they are more likely to stay and complete their course. Retention rates for regional, remote and Indigenous students at Group of Eight universities are significantly higher than the national average. Once they complete their studies, many of our graduates return to rural areas to generate wealth and contribute to the well-being of their communities.

Our education is informed by the high-quality research that we undertake. Group of Eight universities are dominant in research fields that are of importance in regional and remote Australia. We deliver research that solves real-world problems in regional, rural and remote areas, with deep partnerships with industries and communities.

While there are a number of Federal Government programs that provide targeted support for regional and remote students to attend university, regular review of these policy settings is required to ensure that interventions to support educational outcomes for regional students are well-designed and adequately funded. Regional and remote students face many challenges accessing and succeeding at university.

Since 2011, while overall numbers of students from regional and remote areas have increased, there has been a slow but steady decline in the proportion of rural and remote students at university – down from 20.3% in 2011 to 19.8% today. Such students need all the support they can get from government.

In this submission, the Group of Eight makes seven recommendations directed at ensuring greater support for qualified regional students to access university education and an appropriate level of support for Australian universities to help regional students succeed.

In particular, the Go8 calls on the Senate to block the current Higher Education Reform Bill as this puts at risk a broad range of university capacity-building. Cuts to university funding will force universities to make difficult choices about the allocation of resources across teaching, student support, and research with serious impacts on access, choice, quality, and, most importantly, equity.

The Go8 urges the Federal Government to continue to invest in equity programs to support regional and remote students to aspire to university and to receive the additional study and social support they need.

The Government has the capacity to improve education and employment outcomes for regional, rural and remote Australia by engaging with universities and supporting the continuation and expansion of our proven educational aspiration and attainment programs (spanning pre-school, school, TAFE, community and industry) and utilising our innovation and research strengths.

To read the full submission, please click the link below.