Universities would drive federal government policy in education, employment, research and development in regional Australia if parliament backs a bill introduced by independent MP Cathy McGowan.
The member for Indi’s National Regional Higher Education Strategy proposal requires the government to “maintain a strategic plan and analysis of regional higher education and recognises the role of regional universities in sustaining economic growth and supporting employment in regional Australia.”
“Support for delivery of higher education in regional areas is often seen only as an issue of equity – focused on improved access, participation and completion rates. While equity is important, regional education is also an essential driver of growth and prosperity of regional Australia,” the bill’s explanatory memorandum states.
This is entirely on-song with the Regional Universities Network’s strategy to put member institutions at the centre of regional development spending and positions its funding claims outside the present government spending cap and policy of allocating future undergraduate places according to performance metrics. “A one size fits all approach to higher education, such as the current across the board funding freeze, is a blunt instrument, which proportionately negatively impacts on the regions, RUN chair Greg Hill said yesterday.
However the bill may never be debated in the House, with the government preferring to make policy based on the Halsey Review into regional rural and remote education, which was delivered in January but is not yet released.