The government is failing to support regional higher-education and “must try harder”, Border universities believe.
Charles Sturt and La Trobe universities have been critical after it was revealed the government was aware regional campuses would be hit the hardest by its funding freeze.
La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor John Dewar said alarm bells should be ringing at the Education Department’s four-year funding projection, revealed under a Freedom of Information request by the ABC.
The funding freeze caps the Commonwealth contribution for most undergraduate courses at 2017 levels.
“It is increasingly difficult to escape the conclusion that government is not taking the educational needs of regional and rural Australians seriously,” he said.
The freeze has already caused La Trobe to withdraw its TAFE-partnered dual enrolment model, which had been described as “sector-leading” – and other universities have flagged cutting the number of places they offered.
He said under the current funding the investment is too small to make any meaningful progress to lessening the gap and the government “must try harder”.
“This matters because we need a highly-skilled workforce to meet the demands and opportunities of the new knowledge economy in our regional Victoria just as much as we do in our major cities,” he said.
“The size of the cuts – the department estimates $175 million over four years at La Trobe alone – translates to regional and rural Victorians, young and mature age, missing out on the opportunities and benefits a university education can provide for themselves, their families and their wider communities.”
Charles Sturt University Vice-Chancellor Andrew Vann said the government's cuts will turn students away from studying regionally.
“The government has failed to take into consideration the needs of regional universities that service a large and diverse part of Australia," he said.
"These decisions have real impact on students, their parents, the local workforce on our campuses, and our other regional stakeholders.”
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