Federal paper fails to address higher education in regional Australia: CSU

9 MAY 2002

A Federal Government issue paper on regional engagement in Australian higher education has been criticised for its “failure to defend seriously … the necessity to respond to, and to meet, the needs of regional Australia”.

A Federal Government issue paper on regional engagement in Australian higher education has been criticised for its “failure to defend seriously … the necessity to respond to, and to meet, the needs of regional Australia”, according to Charles Sturt University’s latest submission to the federal Higher Education Review.

The University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Goulter, said the most significant mistake in the review’s last paper, titled Varieties of Excellence: Diversity, Specialisation and Regional Engagement, is the Government’s failure to clearly define regional Australia, but rather “allow communities to define their own region”.

“Interestingly, this confusion about ‘regional Australia’ is not apparent elsewhere in Commonwealth departmental reports, nor … by the Deputy Prime Minister in his foreword to the Commonwealth Regional Information Book,” Professor Goulter said.

“Charles Sturt, as a University in and of regional Australia, strongly recommends that the Commonwealth should avoid, at all costs, a ‘metro-centric’ approach that would neglect regional Australia in its reform of the higher education sector,” he said.

“A ‘metro-centric’ approach would seek to assert that the real interests of Australians living in non-metropolitan, rural and remote areas can be best served by policies, reforms and delivery service models based on metropolitan perspectives and experience, which is inappropriate and short-sighted.”

Furthermore, the submission points out that CSU is legislatively obliged by the NSW Government to provide learning programs from bachelor to PhD levels and to carry out research and scholarship for regional areas.
The University’s submission also noted that Australia has always recognised the place of regional higher education institutions in addressing access and equity issues.

“The Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission, in the Universities in Crisis report to the Senate, stated that access to education, including higher education, was one of three basic factors for human development,” Professor Goulter said.

“The Commonwealth needs to guard against any reform whereby regional students would be forced to move to major cities to pursue their higher education.”

The University response highlights the economic, social and cultural benefits of universities headquartered in regional and rural areas.

“The Diversity report speaks of ‘potential’ contributions from regional universities. Regional universities already contribute $2 billion annually to regional output. State and local Governments also recognise the high importance of regional universities as major employers and hubs for growth and social and economic development in regional Australia,” Professor Goulter said.

Previous Government reports state, Charles Sturt University is recognised for:

  • Being a major employer in the regions where it serves;
  • Accelerating regional development by raising participation in higher education;
  • Providing skills, knowledge, infrastructure and creativity to stimulate local industry and new businesses;
  • Playing an important role in regional economic planning;
  • Contributing to local government;
  • Having researchers contribute knowledge appropriate for its region;
  • Being a catalyst for social and cultural development; and,
  • Attracting and retaining professionals to the regions.
“Perhaps most importantly, two in three students from CSU remain to work in regional Australia, while three in five students from metropolitan areas who study at CSU start full-time employment in regional Australia,” Professor Goulter said.

“Charles Sturt University contributes significantly to enhancing growth and development and reducing the migration of people, particularly young people, from rural and regional Australia to metropolitan areas.”

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