Four barriers to higher education regional students face & how to overcome them

The Conversation

Regional students face major challenges studying in higher education. While over the past five years overall numbers have increased, regional students remain underrepresented in Australian universities.

So why is it so tough for regional students? What are the main obstacles and how can we tackle these issues?

Research tells us the main issues are:

  • Smaller campuses and less choice
  • Cost of living
  • Higher transport costs
  • Poor investment in regional schools

What are the solutions?

Early childhood and school-based interventions may improve school achievement and higher education participation. Universities can work closely with these lower levels of education to raise student awareness, aspiration and achievement.

Opening up sub-bachelor places (such as associate degrees) for regional students could provide more flexible and supportive pathways into higher education.

Where local study, commuting or relocation are not possible, blended and online learning must also be part of the solution. However, we need to improve support for students who undertake blended and online education if we are to improve retention and completion rates.

The Coalition consulted extensively on online education when in opposition. More online provision would expand the breadth of course offerings and assist some regional students who cannot afford to travel.

Increasing the supply of education will only work, however, if the demand is there.

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Bundaberg eyed as Queensland’s next big export port

The Courier Mail

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Bundaberg could become one of Queensland’s export meccas after the Palaszczuk Government announced plans to investigate establishing a state development area at the sugar city’s port.

The Co-ordinator-General will consider whether to bring more than 5000ha of land next to the existing port under the State Development Act, meaning it would be dedicated for industry and infrastructure corridors.

Bundaberg now has Queensland’s northernmost port unaffected by the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and the UNESCO sustainable planning laws.

The port is used to export sugar, wood pellets and sand, and it is hoped it could expand to minerals in the future.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said yesterday there was significant potential to expand the number of products exported from Bundaberg.

Ms Palaszczuk said there was also an opportunity to establish a biofuels plant in the Bundaberg state development area and capitalise on world demand, including the United States Navy.

State Development Minister Anthony Lynham said Bundaberg could be the unwitting beneficiary from the UNESCO decision as it was Queensland’s northern most port unaffected by the Reef heritage area.

“I can see a sustainable economic future for this region,” he said.

“It is sustainable already, we are already seeing the exports of wood pellets, which is a replacement for coal, going to Europe from this port – two shipments have left already.”

In Bundaberg, the Government also announced it would spend almost $20 million on a new gas pipeline.

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Rural towns critical to refugee resettlement

The Land

NSW country towns will be crucial to the resettlement of Syrian refugees, with government already receiving a heartening response from local councils.

Professor Peter Shergold, the state’s co-ordinator general for refugee resettlement, said NSW could take more than half of the 12,000 Syrians bound for Australia, with regional towns identified as ideal long-term destinations.

He said several rural communities had approached the government with offers to house refugees, teach them English and provide jobs, ahead of the first arrivals expected by December.

“I think rural and regional NSW will be crucial to this effort,” Professor Shergold said.

“If (refugees) know there is local government that is willing to welcome them, that there are community organisations that can lend support, that there is the prospect of part-time and full-time work – then my view is that many of the refugees will be willing to give regional NSW a go.

He said the availability of health and education facilities would be critical in determining the communities where refugees could be based.

“The whole point of this co-ordination is not just to provide immediate settlement services – as important as those are – but to see how we can help the refugees contribute to Australia.

“Often when refugees come here they have family connections. That’s one of the reasons they are relocated in Sydney, Newcastle, and Wollongong.

“But we should expect these refugees (from Syria) will not have those connections, and will be far more open to taking up opportunities in regional areas.”

Professor Shergold said the perception that refugees would be welfare-reliant was incorrect.

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Big potential for growth in East Arnhem Land

ABC Rural

The head of a development body in Nhulunbuy believes the region is well poised to capitalise on potential agriculture and aquaculture ventures.

Rio Tinto’s decision to curtail the local alumina refinery in 2014 meant more than 1,000 people lost their jobs and the town took a huge economic hit.

Developing East Arnhem Land, which was created last year as a result of the curtailment, has been pitching to the major projects conference in Darwin this week.

CEO Carley Scott said there were a number of opportunities for investment in projects beyond mining.

“There’s been a big move in East Arnhem Land where we’ve seen people go through a really tough period and now come out the other side to a large degree,” she said.

“We can look at the port infrastructure that we’ve got there and what we can do with aquaculture in particular, agriculture as well.

“Whether it’s beef product that we already have there or… the crocodile industry, which is of interest to us.”

Ms Scott said there were a number of challenges that needed to be overcome to achieve the development sought, including access to land.

“If you’re looking to access land to develop, there is certainly commercial land available so that’s a real positive,” she said.

“You’re looking to build those partnerships… so you’ve got those really strong networks and the ability to really work well in the region.”

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Rural communities fear ‘data drought’ despite launch of NBN satellite Sky Muster

ABC News

Frustrated rural internet customers fear it could be 18 months before their substandard services are improved by the National Broadband Network (NBN Co) satellite Sky Muster.

The new half-a-billion-dollar satellite was launched this week, but due to months of testing will not be commercially available until mid-2016. Central Queensland farmer Kristy Sparrow said the bush cannot wait that long. Ms Sparrow has called on NBN Co to do more to improve speeds and lift data limits for those struggling with the congested interim satellite service (ISS), which Sky Muster will replace.

To address the congestion on the oversold system NBN Co introduced a fair use policy at the start of the year. All ISS users had their data plans cut.

Megan Munchenberg from Gregory Downs station in far north Queensland has seen the impact on her two children, who study by school of the air.

Alex Appleton doing distance education from schoolroom on Islay Plains Station, Alpha Queensland.

Alex Appleton doing distance education from schoolroom on Islay Plains Station, Alpha Queensland.

In March the station schoolroom’s 100 gigabyte plan was halved to 50 gigabytes, then three months later reduced to 45 gigabytes.

“Each child by standard has been recommended that they need 20 gigabytes month each. Currently we have 20 gigabytes for five children,” she said.

Despite rationing, the schoolroom cannot make it through the month, and their internet is “shaped”, or drastically slowed. “It’s pretty much just turn the computer off and walk away because the ability to do anything is impossible,” Ms Munchenberg said.

NBN Co’s general manager for fixed wireless and satellite, Gavin Williams, said he does not like to hear stories of hardship caused by the ISS.

“It’s incredibly humbling when you hear the real world impacts of individuals in the bush just trying to do things that people in the city just take for granted,” he said.

“When you can’t do a banking transaction because it times out, that a kid has to get up at 5:00am to do a lesson, they’re heartbreaking stories.”

Ms Sparrow said there is an information drought about the new long-term satellite service (LSS) and called on NBN Co to provide more information.

“How much are these families going to be able to access? What data limits? What costs? How long is it going to take to service every family?” she said.

“It’s a digital world and there’s a digital divide. The interim satellite at least deserves to be fixed until then.”

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