Thousands of students in the electorate of Page will benefit from the Australian government’s higher education reforms, education minister Christopher Pyne said during a visit to Southern Cross University in Lismore today.
Mr Pyne said the government would now fund pathway programs and other diploma courses through universities and colleges that would help more local people get qualifications that could be used outright or towards a university degree.
‘The Australian Government is honouring its commitments, investing record recurrent funding of $64.5 billion in government and non-government schools over the next four years,’ he said.
‘This includes an extra $1.2 billion that the previous government removed from schools in our most regional states.’
Page MP Kevin Hogan said the reforms meant that local higher education providers such as SCU could expand the range of courses it offered.
‘This may also see many local students paying less than they do now for their education as the government supports more higher education options,’ he said.
During the visit, Mr Pyne announced a $996,500 grant for SCU to develop a project to enhance the teaching and learning of maths and science in years 7-10.
‘Australia needs to do more to encourage an interest in maths and science.
‘Universities have a big role encouraging students at high school and training teachers at university,’ Mr Pyne said.
“This funding is part of a $16.4 million investment across ten universities, where universities will work in partnership with schools and other organisations to promote study of maths and science at a school and tertiary level,” Mr Pyne said.
Mr Pyne rejected suggestions that the government’s reforms would result in students paying more for their degrees, and having to move to cities to pay them off.
‘By lifting the cap on diplomas and associate degrees, 80,000 more young people will be involved in higher education each year.’
Mr Pyne said regional and rural universities would have a ‘tremendous advantage’ over their city counterparts, with students attracted by lower cost of living and fantastic lifestyles in regional areas.
He said changes to the commonwealth scholarship scheme would also enable vice chancellors to tailor offers to attract students.
SCU vice chancellor Peter Lee welcomed the new program, saying science and technology were particularly important in regional areas.
Prof Lee said the importance of science in relation to crops, soils, and other rural practices needed to be explained early to students.
As for the governments’ shakeup of funding, Prof Lee said ‘within any change there is opportunity and we look forward to working with our TAFE partners, and attracting more students from the cities’.