The Country Universities Centre submission to the Universities Accord Discussion Paper
19 Apr 2023
Despite numerous policy interventions over the past two decades, regional Australians participate in higher education at half the rate of their metropolitan counterparts.
Previous policy interventions assume that regional people lack aspiration, want to move, or should be incentivised to move to attend university; they illuminate a rigidity of the higher education system that is focused on changing the individual to fit higher education in its current form rather than structural changes to the sector to fit how regional and rural Australian communities’ function.
This misrecognition of the problem has rendered previous policy interventions ineffective and highlights the lack of agility in the Australian higher education sector to re-examine the challenges and think differently. Entrenched university practices that have embedded inequities for regional people in higher education participation will continue without structural intervention.
What is needed are new ways of thinking about and undertaking higher education in Australia.
Not every challenge in higher education can or should be solved by providing more funding to universities. While universities are the delivery arm of the higher education sector and a fundamental part of the system, they are not all of the sector.
For over 20 years governments have been asking and funding universities to solve all higher education related equity issues and it is now time to engage other players to solve the pernicious remaining challenges such as increasing higher education participation of regional Australians. Other actors must be brought into being part of the higher education system to help generate creative solutions.
The CUC and its practices demonstrate a new way of not only thinking about regional higher education and supporting remote students to succeed but practical and proven examples that have successfully operated on the fringes of higher education policy.
The CUC is a grassroots organisation that was established in response to the market failure of governments and universities to do higher education differently and break the systemic inequities that exist in Australian Higher Education. It began outside the higher education system led by community members frustrated with the lack of engagement from universities and governments to recognise the more nuanced challenges of access to higher education in regional Australia.
The Accord marks a once in a generation policy moment to weave the innovation of the CUC and the Regional University Centre (RUC) program into the broader higher education sector and policy framework, elevating the voices of those who have developed these successful grassroots approaches to higher education. It is an opportunity for the CUC, regional communities, universities, and government to work together to provide genuine access, opportunity, and support for higher education in regional Australia.
The submission presents four challenges with bold solutions that are practical, cost-effective, and scalable to transform regional higher education participation.
Read the submission here: CUC Universities Accord Submission_FINAL