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Thursday, 10 October 1996
Page: 3990

(Question No. 191)

Senator Chris Evans asked the Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 29 August 1996:

(1) What impact will the reduction in funding to universities have on the regional campuses of those universities.

(2) Will the Government guarantee that regional campuses will not close as a result of funding reductions to universities.

(3) Will the Government guarantee that the Bunbury campus of Edith Cowan University will continue under the funding arrangements implemented by the Howard Coalition Government.

(4) What steps have been taken to ensure that Bunbury campus of Edith Cowan University, and other regional campuses, will not be closed and that the level and range of courses available to regional students will not be reduced.

Senator Vanstone —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) The role of regional universities in providing access for rural and regionally based students has been recognised by the Government in its Budget package. All publicly funded higher education institutions, including those in regional Australia, will have time to plan and adapt as the reduction to grants has been deliberately timed to fit university planning timeframes. Moreover, by applying the same proportional reduction to the operating grant on all institutions the Government has ensured that all are treated in the fairest way possible.

(2) The flow of funding to the regional campuses of individual institutions is a matter for the universities themselves. While the Commonwealth provides the bulk of university funds, higher education institutions are essentially autonomous organisations that are responsible for the distributions of funds between campuses based on their own assessment of priorities and needs.

In the Budget Statement on Higher Education the Government has stated that the needs of regional institutions will be given special consideration. The Government has indicated that it will be prepared to consider specific proposals for assistance to help the process of adjustment to the new funding levels if necessary.

(3) The allocation of funds to the Bunbury campus of Edith Cowan University will be based on the University's own assessment of its priorities and needs.

(4) There is no suggestion that the Bunbury campus of Edith Cowan University and other regional campuses are likely to close, or that the range of courses available to regional students will be reduced as a direct result of the relatively modest reductions to universities operating grant which were announced in the Budget.