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.