Media releases

Media Release: The real risk to regional, mature aged, and Indigenous students

17 Jul 17

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Postgraduate Association (NATSIPA) is glad to see the Labor party standing up for university enabling programs.

Enabling programs are being put at risk by the Higher Education Reform package in yet another move cost shift higher education to students. These essential programs allow Indigenous, regional, and mature aged students access to the preparation courses needed to succeed in university education. Both CAPA and NATSIPA are worried that shifting these courses to “user pays” will discourage many of these students from participation in tertiary education.

These programs are at risk of being out of reach for many students under the plan to attach fees to enabling programs under the higher education reform package. Such programs are essential to enable students that are not traditional entrance students. This includes mature aged students, regional students, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

“Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students enter university through pathways or enabling programs,” said NATSIPA President and Fulbright Scholar Sadie Heckenberg. “In fact I am one of those students who would not have had access to university without an enabling program. An enabling program that opened up a world of opportunity.”

“For Indigenous students across the country this further hurdle has the Federal Government saying we don’t want parity; we don’t want you having access to higher education. It has to stop. Not only are many potential students left feeling that they will not be able to access university, but programs have been put on notice and some universities have even halted employment for Indigenous academics teaching within these programs.”

Throughout the sector there is a concentrated effort to ensure an increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in Higher Education. How can this possibly be achieved when the entrance pathways become more difficult for disadvantaged students?

“1.6% of undergraduate university enrolments are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, however this percentage jumps to 6% for enabling programs,” says NATSIPA Vice President Dr Sharlene Leroy-Dyer, who is the program convenor of the Yapug enabling Program at UoN.

“Universities such as the University of Newcastle (UoN) lead the way in Indigenous education with over 1000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students undertaking higher education, 200 of these come through enabling programs, therefore accessibility of enabling courses is vital.”

It was argued that these students need to have some financial risk involved which is an absurd idea on the face of it. When potential students are leaving their families and communities to attend these courses then they already have plenty of financial risk.

“This step is just another way to gouge students for education,” said CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire. “a step that would not be needed if the Federal Government just did what Australia wants and funded Universities adequately.”

END

For Comment:

Peter Derbyshire CAPA National President M: 0435 047 817 president@capa.edu.au

Sadie Heckenberg NATSIPA President E: president@natsipa.edu.au