Rural universities under threat welcome push for a national strategy

WORRIED: CSU vice-chancellor professor Andrew Vann said he was was looking closely at the university's budget and still hoped education reforms would be rejected.

WORRIED: CSU vice-chancellor professor Andrew Vann said he was was looking closely at the university's budget and still hoped education reforms would be rejected.

The federal government is being pressured to address the “missing piece” in its education reforms by introducing a national regional university strategy.

Indi MP Cathy McGowan asked those in Parliament this week to work with her and makes plans for further than just the next election.

“Regional unis do more than educate - they are a critical player in workforce planning, they’re a driver of economic growth and development,” she said.

“They’re key employers, they innovate, they inspire, they act as major attractors to young people, and they can make the difference between economic survival and the totally undesirable alternative.”

A public forum looking at the state of education in regional and rural area is set to be held in Wodonga on October 11.

Ms McGowan praised Senator Bridget McKenzie for leadership role in education reform, but still wanted more government attention paid to the regions.

“There is a missing piece in this (education review) discussion paper: this review does not address regional universities and those who choose to study there. This seems inconsistent with the government’s decentralisation agenda,” she said.

Indi MP Cathy McGowan and Senator Bridget McKenzie.

Indi MP Cathy McGowan and Senator Bridget McKenzie.

The Border’s two universities, Charles Sturt and La Trobe, were also in favour of a national regional university strategy.

CSU vice-chancellor professor Andrew Vann told The Border Mail he supported the national strategy because it was important to recognise the different needs of metropolitan and regional universities. 

“We really need to protect regional higher education because if we’re not protected, we can’t invest in these communities,” he said.

“Regional Australia is growing, sometimes people forget that, but we need investment.”

Institutions like CSU had different models to the metropolitan universities, with campuses in multiple cities and taking students who were upskilling, not just school leavers.

Professor Vann said he was disappointed by comments from Education Minister Simon Birmingham around funding cuts, which could result in an annual loss of $90 million in revenue for CSU.

“It’s very threatening and the minister has really dismissed the impact on universities,” he said.

CSU will participate in the upcoming regional education forum in Wodonga.