THE federal government’s tertiary education policies at present appear designed to unfairly disadvantage regional universities at every turn.
This week’s announcement that the government is looking to cut $2.2 billion from university funding will inevitably hurt regional institutions – and regional students – more than those in the major cities.
Universities like our own CSU that exist largely to train a regional workforce already face difficulties that those in the big cities cannot understand.
Charles Sturt University draws students from a footprint covering most of NSW and most of them have had to move away from home to study.
That’s not the case for Sydney universities and Sydney students who at least have the option of remaining at home.
It naturally follows that price will be a key determinant in deciding whether a regional student goes on to tertiary education and the cuts announced by the government will only make that equation more difficult.
So we ask, if the federal government is committed to reining in tertiary spending, why not cut costs on a case-by-case basis?
Perhaps the government is trying to tell us that all universities must be treated equally.
And if that’s the case, then we look forward to the policy being applied to the question of federal funding for regional medical schools.
For years now, CSU and La Trobe University have been lobbying for funding to establish the Murray Darling Medical School.
The case for the medical school is compelling. Data shows that students who train in the regions are more likely to remain living in the regions, so a medical school in the bush would go a long way towards easing medical shortages outside of the capitals.
But there is no question of equal treatment in this instance. Rather, the federal government has allowed itself to be hoodwinked by the sandstone universities of Melbourne and Sydney into believing that only they can train our future doctors.
The result is that regional universities – and regional communities – are treated as second class citizens.
Bush-based MPs have had plenty to say about the importance of regional universities but they need to start recording a few wins inside the party room.
Because if they can’t secure funding for CSU while in government, then what hope is there once they’re back in opposition?