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Labor's regional universities package.



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Labor's Regional Universities Package Kim Beazley, Leader of the Opposition, and Michael Lee, Shadow Minister for Education

Joint Media Statement - 14 February 2001

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Australia's regional universities will become major drivers of educational opportunity, development and job creation in regional Australia under new education policies announced by Beazley Labor today.

The Howard Government has massively undermined Australia's 13 regional universities by:

z cutting their operating grants by $219 million (see table attached);

z slashing the number of post-graduate research training places; and

z abolishing the Merit-Based Equity Scholarships, which assisted 1,000

z disadvantaged students, including rural students, to attend university.

These cuts forced the Minister for Education, Dr Kemp, to admit, in his own leaked Cabinet submission, that "already eight institutions appear to be operating at a deficit and some regional campuses are at risk."

Labor will not allow regional universities to be run down in this way, which is why we are announcing this package to strengthen regional universities in two vital areas:

z increasing assistance to regional universities to improve their telecommunications links; and

z creating a separate pool of 400 new fully funded postgraduate research training places

especially for regional universities.

Access to Better Communications Links

Access to high bandwidth telecommunications services -- for internet, email, e-Library, online tutorials and multi-media -- is a core requirement for modern universities.

Regional universities pay two to three times more for broadband services than metropolitan universities. This has a severe impact on university budgets and affects their ability to deliver courses online.

The Howard Government's response to this need has been inadequate.

The Howard Government claims it is spending $3.2 million over two years -from existing programs - addressing this problem. (*)

Labor will more than double this amount to accelerate improved access to high bandwidth telecommunications links.

As well as providing faster and more reliable internet services for students and researchers this policy will allow regional universities to be full partners in Labor's plan to establish the University of Australia Online.

Guaranteed Research Training Places

Labor believes that research is a core function of all universities, including regional universities.

The Howard Government, however, abolished one-in-five research student places at regional universities this year.

As a result Ballarat, Deakin and the University of Southern Queensland have lost more than 40% of their research training places and James Cook University and La Trobe have lost around 20%.

The new arrangements outlined in the Research White Paper will concentrate university research even further in metropolitan universities in the future.

The Howard Government has never understood that Dr Kemp's plan would undermine centres of research excellence in many regional universities.

To maintain regional universities as vibrant centres of research, Labor will create a pool of 400 new fully funded HECS-exempt research training places especially for regional universities. These will be available on a competitive basis, based on universities' areas of research excellence.

The Importance of Regional Universities

In many regional centres, universities are the leading employers and make a significant contribution to boosting regional development. The health of regional economies depends increasingly on the ability of regional universities to strengthen existing local industries and help create new opportunities.

By boosting regional universities, these measures will ensure that every Australian community will be able to participate in the Knowledge Nation.

These policies are promises for the first term of a Beazley Labor Government which will make investing in education and research the driving force in ensuring Australia becomes a Knowledge Nation.

In contrast, the Government's Innovation statement is in danger of becoming just another of Mr Howard's "non-core" promises.

(*) Minister for Education Media Release, 21 December 2000.

Howard's Cuts to Regional Universities

Institution

Operating Grant Cuts ($ Million) * Number and % of Research Training Places Lost **

New South Wales

Charles Sturt University 21 11 (8%)

Southern Cross University

11 15 (11%)

University of New England

18 43 (10%)

University of Newcastle 27 50 (8%)

University of 18 6 (1%)

* Proportion of total 1996 Budget university cuts, broken down by institution according to formula provided by DETYA with 1996/97 budget.

** Based on DETYA figures for 2000 and 2001 research training places.

Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.

Wollongong

Victoria

Deakin University 25 224 (43%)

La Trobe University 23 177 (22%)

University of Ballarat 4 31 (41%)

Queensland

Central Queensland University

13 4 (3%)

James Cook University 16 76 (19%)

University of Southern Qld

16 69 (46%)

Tasmania

University of Tasmania 21 81 (14%)

Northern Territory

Northern Territory University

6 13 (12%)

Total $219 Million 800 (17%)