Budget 2017: Fears higher education reforms won’t close gap
As seen in the Weekly Times, 9 May 2017
BUDGET 2017: HIGHER education reforms targeted at regional Australia will be of little benefit without a serious bid to close the education gap between city and country students, a leading research body warns.
Regional Australia Institute’s Jack Archer welcomed the Federal Government’s higher education package — part of the 2017-18 Budget — as “useful contributors” to bridging the education divide, but stressed they needed to be part of a bigger regional education strategy.
The Government will spend $15 million on eight community-owned regional study hubs across the country, to give distance education students better access to tutors and support.
Two hubs are already running in Cooma, NSW, and Geraldton, WA; the other six sites will be chosen in consultation state governments and local councils.
Another $24 million will go to scholarships to encourage rural students to study science, technology, engineering and maths.
Existing funding aimed at helping students from low socio-economic areas, including regional Australia, enrol and stay at university will be better targeted to improve retention rates; and government support will be extended for sub-bachelor degrees (such as diplomas and associate degrees).
Mr Archer said each was a positive measure but “we probably won’t see major change” unless they were part of a bigger package.
“We haven’t made progress in closing these gaps (between metropolitan and regional education) in almost 20 or 30 years,” Mr Archer said.
“All these individual things are great but unless we’re making real progress (to close the gap), have we changed anything?”