The federal government has unthawed its funding freeze to warm-up Southern Cross University, where VC Adam Shoemaker welcomes an additional $12.9m over four years for student places. “The government’s decision to reconsider its absolute cap on student places and award additional funding is welcome recognition of the value that Southern Cross University delivers to regional Australia,” he says. Professor Shoemaker also“welcomed the willingness” of National Party MP Luke Hartsuyker and Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s office to work with the university.
This is a big win for Professor Shoemaker, who anticipated a change in government policy in November when he launched a campaign on the unique funding needs of regional universities, like his (CMM November 29).
With SCU’s win and Thursday’s announcement of growth money for the University of the Sunshine Coast precedents are now in place for the other members of the Regional Universities Network to lobby for advanced exemption from the yet to be set rules governing increased student places. To be followed by every other university in the country with a sympathetic MP or senator in hailing distance.
RUN certainly sees an opportunity. On Friday Professor Shoemaker and chief executive of the lobby Caroline Perkins gave evidence to the House of Representatives Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation. They argued for “a locality-specific” approach to funding regional universities.
“Measures like across the board funding freezes or efficiency dividends that do not take account of individual circumstances, commonly disproportionately impact on those regions/institutions that have the most need of support, and those that are relatively more dependent on government funding,” Dr Perkins says.