This is the most significant reform to higher education in the last 15 years and the University will need to examine the details of the package and conditions of access to funding.
CSU’s initial position on key issues are:
The University welcomes the student centred aspects of the package. This is wholly consistent with CSU’s commitment to its students, quality teaching and learning.
CSU argued against additional fees for regional students. The University applauds the scholarships for rural and regional students to help ameliorate additional costs.
First reading of the reforms indicate they respond to the needs of a traditional on-campus, school leaver student population. CSU is not of this mould, 60 per cent of CSU students are mature age and 45 per cent come from equity groups including Indigenous, low-income families and rural and regional backgrounds. The University is looking for the best possible options in this package for this diverse student body.
The University welcomes the $122 million for regional universities over four years. It is not yet apparent whether this funding will enable regional universities to maintain parity with metropolitan universities.
This regional package needs to be balanced against the fact the Government has determined that 27 of Australia’s 39 universities are eligible to apply for this regional money. This includes three of Australia’s wealthiest metropolitan universities: Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland, which have regional based campuses.
Overall the reforms present a complex package that requires detailed analysis. As far as possible, CSU will commit itself to containing fees and all decisions will be considered in the best interests of its regional communities, and commitment to students.
CSU welcomes changes seen to date in the package. The University believes it is well positioned in its research focus on water resources management, ethics and wine science. The University will compete for lead researcher funding through the Australian Research Council, allowing it to continue proactive engagement in research.
Teacher education and nursing:
The package provides greater flexibility to adjust to areas of high demand, such as teacher education, and this is a bonus for the regions.
To meet the acute need for teacher education and nursing places in the regions, the University will argue these additional student places should be allocated to regional institutions, which have proven they retain skilled professionals in the regions.
CSU is well positioned on this front. But again, the University needs to take into account there are only 221 additional places for regional institutions Australia wide in 2004 and poses the question, will this address the areas of acute need in regional Australia?
The University acknowledges the tremendous productivity increases from academic and general staff since 1996. The University looks to having a collaborative relationship in working with staff and will be seeking that any workplace guidelines are developed in consultation with university leaders.
Overall, the onus is on the University to serve its regions, and to continue to compete for students in its regions as well as nationally and internationally.
At this early stage the University believes it is in a position of strength to take advantage of the benefits it views in the reform package.