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Thursday, 15 May 2014
Page: 3912


Mr PYNE (SturtLeader of the House and Minister for Education) (14:34): I was fortunate to be able to hear the question from the member for Page. It was very much a better question than the questions that come from the opposition. I am pleased that he was able to refer to the press release from the Regional Universities Network. The chair of the Regional Universities Network, Professor Peter Lee, is the Vice-Chancellor of the Southern Cross University in Lismore, which is in the member for Page's electorate. He went on to say, in response the budget, in relation to higher education reforms:

We are particularly pleased that the Government has decided to keep the demand driven system for bachelor places and extended it to sub-bachelor places. This will assist in providing pathways and lift participation in higher education in regional Australia for less well prepared students.

He also said:

We recognise that, in a deregulated fee environment, the Government has chosen to ensure that scholarships are available for low SES and other students from backgrounds underrepresented in higher education.

I am very pleased that the Regional Universities Network has supported and endorsed the government's approach to this very far-reaching higher education reform.

They recognise that in this higher education reform there are real opportunities for rural and regional students that present themselves, because of the far-reaching reforms that we are bringing about at the university level. Firstly, we are expanding opportunities for students to access, through the demand-driven system, the diploma and associate degrees commonly called sub-bachelor courses. These are found in a higher propensity in regional and rural Australia. They are preparing students that otherwise would find it difficult to pass university degrees, preparing them for university and giving them the opportunity to earn 75 per cent more over a lifetime than they would otherwise earn if they did not go to university. We are removing that cap, giving more students in rural and regional areas the opportunity to go to university.

We are also introducing the biggest Commonwealth scholarship scheme in the history of Australia, which will allow our regional universities, should they wish to do so, to pay bursaries to regional students to pay for their living expenses or rent or whatever else they need to be able to go to university. So we are freeing up the system so there can be new, flexible ways for rural students to get to university. They will also be able to benefit from the Trade Support Loans Program, where $20,000 will be able to be borrowed by apprentices from the taxpayer, to be paid back later in life when they can afford to do so. Finally, we are giving them the freedom to become excellent in the areas that they do best so that they can compete with all universities in Australia and the Asian universities overseas that are getting better and better all the time.