Education Minister Dan Tehan has committed $134m in new funding to support regional and remote university students. The package, announced this morning, includes $34m for nearly 2000 new scholarships and $92m over four years for student support services at “regionally focused universities”. The funding goes to, Federation U‘s Berwick campus, on Melbourne’s outer eastern fringe, ($42m), Uni Sunshine Coast at Caboolture and the Fraser Coast ($30.2m), Uni Newcastle‘s new medical school at Gosford ($3.3m), CQU ($9.1m) and James Cook U ($9.1m).
Former Victorian premier and Liberal regional state MP Denis Napthine will also chair an advisory group on regional education. Dr Napthine and colleagues will advise the government on priority responses to John Halsey‘s independent review of regional, rural and remote education. Professor Halsey’s report was adopted by the government in April (CMM May 31). Dr Napthine will be particularly charged with reporting on “the merits” of Professor Halsey’s proposal for a regional education commissioner.
The Regional Universities Network was quick to endorse the package, with chair Greg Hill (Uni Sunshine Coast), saying the government “is listening to the voice of regional Australia in the national interest.” Universities Australia agreed, with CEO Catriona Jackson calling it a “good development”, adding “Minister Tehan has a strong personal commitment to regional education – and our regional universities are working hard to close the gap in educational attainment in their communities.” However she added that the “greatly needed” funding, “should be a first step towards the return of demand-driven funding sector-wide, so that all Australians can fulfil their educational potential, whatever their postcode.”