A parliamentary committee has backed the Brumby Government’s investment and support to increase the number of regional and rural students in Victoria undertaking higher study or training.
The Member for Western Victoria, Gayle Tierney welcomed the release of the Victorian Parliament’s Inquiry into Geographical Differences in the Rate in Which Victorian Students Participate in Higher Education.
Ms Tierney said the Brumby Government’s $316 million reform of the TAFE and training sector and the Victorian Government’s response to the Federal Government’s reform of higher education opened up huge opportunities for rural students.
“We have invested $1.65 billion in Victoria’s Vocational Education and Training system. More than 500,000 students currently undertake VET study – and regional students are participating at higher levels than ever before.
“The number of VET students living in regional and rural Victoria increased since 1999 to be 170,250 in 2008.
“Our reforms will create an extra 172,000 places and make VET even more accessible for regional and rural students.
“Also, rural and regional year 12 student participation rate has risen since 1999 to be 73.5 per cent in 2007 – the highest regional rate in Australia.
Ms Tierney said the Brumby Government had made significant investments in rural and regional campuses through the Regional Infrastructure Development Fund to ensure rural students had quality facilities at their doorstops.
“We have spent more than $600 million in universities, including $108 million in capital works to make regional campuses modern teaching institutions and in many cases, leaders in their teaching fields,” Ms Tierney said.
“Projects we have funded include the $15.5million Transport and Logistics Centre in Wodonga and $2 million for the upgrade of the La Trobe campus in Shepparton.”
Ms Tierney said the Brumby Government was currently developing Victoria’s Tertiary Education Plan to identify opportunities for the State in the wake of the Federal Government’s reforms to the higher education sector.
“The plan is currently being developed by a panel of experts headed by Professor Kwong Lee Dow,” Ms Tierney said.
“Its particular focus is to recommend to the Government how we can take advantage of the federal reforms to boost participation rates in the outer urban and regional communities.
The Panel is to report to Minister for Skills and Workforce Participation, Jacinta Allan at the end of this year and she has asked the panel to work with the Department, and across Government, to take into consideration the Committee’s recommendations.
Ms Tierney said the parliamentary committee highlighted the disparity in higher education participation rates between Melbourne and outer urban and regional Victoria.
“It is problem we have been well aware off for some time – a disparity that is the direct result of a lack of federal funding for higher education for 10 years under the previous Liberal Howard Government,” Ms Tierney said.
“It was a lack of investment I raised with the former Federal Education minister Julie Bishop – and it’s an issue I have continued to raise with the current federal minister.
“Ms Allan’s formal advice to the Deputy Prime Minister on the Commonwealth Government’s response to the Review of Australian Higher Education specifically nominated the issue of reasonable access to higher education opportunities as a priority for the Brumby Government and pressed for a detailed examination of the needs of outer urban and regional communities and how these needs might be met.
“Meanwhile, the Brumby Government will continue to take action in our areas of responsibility to give rural and regional students every opportunity to participate in tertiary education.”