CAPA & NATSIPA Joint Report: Supporting Regional Universities

Download: CAPA & NATSIPA Joint Report: Supporting Regional Universities

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations represents student organisations, including those based at regional universities; as such, regional advocacy falls within the scope of our representation. In November 2022, the Minister of Education, Jason Clare, declared addressing regional education as one of the priorities of the University Accords,
calling for ‘big ideas’. Unfortunately, most lobbying efforts from the sector overwhelmingly address city-centric issues, many of which do not consider the unique circumstances of regional universities. Consequently, the most common feedback from our regional members is the disconnect between higher education policy and regional universities, often translated to the deterioration of education quality and student experience.

Unlike their city-based counterparts, regional universities are responsible for providing local knowledge and expertise through research and professional training for their local communities. Thus, courses and research disciplines offered at these regional institutes reflect the demands of the local populous and are less suited for adapting to national priorities and changing market trends. Other artifacts of this unique circumstance include smaller class sizes, higher overhead costs for delivering education and a limited range of course offerings.
Throughout this report, we will frequently highlight nuances of regional universities and where the current higher education policy needs to be more effective in recognising the nuances of these institutions so they can better contribute to their local communities and society.

The early sections of this report will highlight mechanisms in the current higher education system that still need to address the nuance of regional universities, resulting in inequitable funding. We will cover aspects of university funding through domestic enrolments, research funding (competitive, national priorities and block funding) and overall support needed for students studying at regional universities. In later sections, we will cover the spillover consequences of these policies and Student Services Amenities Fees.

Download: CAPA’s & NATSIPA’s Response to Australia’s Science and research priorities

CAPA and NATSIPA believe the Accord should be structured to address the existing higher education system’s existing inequalities. Its focus should reflect on systemic inequalities within our current policies, attitudes and practices, which discriminate against different groups within our society. A key objective of the Accord ushers in a new system that increases choice and accessibility regardless of gender, race, ethnocultural background, age, socio-economic background, disability, mental health status and/or sexual identity. Successfully doing so would enable greater participation and allow more people to reach their full potential as active contributors to our society. Any decisions that relate to higher education should clearly include meaningful consultation and discussion with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples across universities, industry, and VET.

The current limitations of our higher education system include the neoliberal ideologies and corporatisation of our university institutions which have distracted them from their original purpose of pursuing the academic mission of teaching and research. In recent years, universities have also been increasingly dragged into political debates of foreign interference, used as the panacea for addressing skills shortages, as the fourth largest export vital to Australia’s economy and national priorities.

Our concern is that the politicisation of higher education and universities will ultimately degrade these institutions’ intellectual integrity in maintaining rational bipartisanship in civil discourse.