More opportunities for regional Australia

The Australian Government’s Job-ready Graduates package (the package) invests in higher education in areas of national priority and ensures our higher education system delivers the best results for students, industry and the community.

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The package responds to recommendations made by the National Regional, Rural and Remote Tertiary Education Strategy (Napthine Review) and seeks to bridge the gap between regional and remote students and metropolitan students, drive productivity for the regions and increase the research capacity of regional universities.

The package increases financial support for regional and remote students, including improved travel support and more facilities in regional areas.

Indigenous students from rural and regional Australia admitted to university will have a guaranteed bachelor-level Commonwealth Supported Place.

Tertiary Access Payment

The Tertiary Access Payment (TAP) is a one-off payment to school-leavers from outer regional or remote areas who relocate to undertake full-time, higher-level tertiary education.

This payment supports strengthening tertiary education in regional and remote Australia and responds to Recommendation 2, Action 7 of the Napthine Review. The TAP aims to encourage regional students to access tertiary study in the year immediately following Year 12, rather than taking a gap year.

For more information, visit the Tertiary Access Payment page or the TAP frequently asked questions section on the Job-ready Graduates - Frequently Asked Questions page.

A guaranteed place for Indigenous students from regional Australia

Demand-driven funding will support all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from regional and remote communities to go to university. From 2021, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who live in regional and remote Australia will be guaranteed a Commonwealth supported place at a university of their choice, when accepted into their chosen course of study. An eligible university place is a non-designated, bachelor level course at an Australian public university.

In 2021, 160 more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from regional and remote areas will benefit from this policy. This is expected to rise to over 1,700 students by 2024.

The Napthine Review highlighted the increased challenges and very low higher education participation rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in regional and remote areas. Introducing demand driven funding for these students responds to Recommendation 5 of the Napthine Review.

Demand-driven funding for these students will have flow-on benefits for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including in remote locations, by increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university graduates in the workforce.

Commonwealth Grant Scheme growth for regional campuses

The package funds more Commonwealth supported places (CSPs) at universities. Universities will be allocated additional Commonwealth Grant Scheme (CGS) funding for each funding agreement period, beginning in 2021.

The funding is a per centage increase on non-medical bachelor funding, based on the proportion of students at campuses in regional, high-growth metropolitan, and low-growth metropolitan areas. Funding increases by:

  • 3.5 per cent a year for regional campuses
  • 2.5 per cent a year for campuses located in high-growth metropolitan areas
  • 1 per cent per year for campuses located in low-growth metropolitan areas.

This means that universities in regional and high-growth metropolitan areas can match the needs of their communities.

Do universities need to apply for this extra funding?

Universities will not need to apply for this funding, it will be calculated based on the most recent available student load data, and projections for population growth across statistical area level four (SA4) areas as published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Given the introduction of the funding envelope, the funding increase will be based on providers’ current non-designated minimum base grant amounts (MBGAs) and will be included in CGS funding agreements.

Note: this funding will be applied on a “commencing” basis – that is, it is calculated to allow for a 3.5 per cent increase in commencing student load at regional campuses.

By 2024, total funding for bachelor places at regional campuses will increase by 3.5 per cent per year. Calculations for the funding is based on the student load each university has in the three categories of campus – those in regional areas, those in high-growth metropolitan areas, and those in low growth metropolitan areas. The growth rates have been determined at the SA4 level, refer to the Job-ready Graduates Package technical note for further information.

Regional University Centres (RUC)

Regional University Centres improve access to tertiary education for regional and remote students. The centres support students to remain in their community and study online with any Australian university, providing student support and campus-like facilities in regional and remote areas.

Regional University Centres will be strengthened and expanded by:

  • implementing a Regional University Centres Network to provide central support to all Centres
  • an evaluation of the Regional University Centres program to inform improvements to the program and Regional University Centres governance and operation 
  • establishing up to eight additional Centres to further support regional and remote students who remain in their local communities
  • funding additional Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs) in support of students studying at the new Centres.

More information can be found about Regional University Centres.

What is a Regional University Centre?

Students in regional and remote areas face fewer higher education study options. Lower population density in regional and remote areas makes it challenging for traditional education providers, including universities, to operate campuses. Internet access can also be unreliable in some areas, limiting online study options. These issues can negatively affect study opportunities and student aspirations.

Supporting and strengthening RUCs, and establishing new RUCs is supporting regional students’ aspirations and opportunities.

The location of new RUCs will be informed through a scoping study.

The RUC program is strengthening tertiary education in regional and remote Australia, and responds to Recommendation 1, Action 3 of the Napthine Review, to expand and enhance the Regional Study Hubs program using a broader range of models tailored to community needs, with sufficient program management and governance support to ensure success.

The 2020 Closing the Gap Report found RUCs were demonstrating success, including for Indigenous students.

Further enquiries can be directed to regional@dese.gov.au.

Improved Fares Allowance

Eligible students who receive Youth Allowance, Austudy or Pensioner Education Supplement can access Fares Allowance for the mid-year break in their first year of study.

The Napthine Review found transport costs a major issue for students who relocate to study. Around 70 per cent of students from regional and remote areas who undertake tertiary study relocate, so a modified Fares Allowance will provide support for these students to stay connected with their family and community.

The improvements to Fares Allowance responds to Recommendation 2, Action 11 of the Napthine Review.

Reform of equity funding

From 2021, the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) provides regional and remote students greater support in accessing and succeeding in higher education.

For the first time, regional and remote students will be included in the distribution of access and equity funding, alongside low SES (socio-economic status) and Indigenous students.

New Indigenous, Regional and Low SES Attainment Fund

The Indigenous, Regional and Low SES Attainment Fund (IRLSAF) funds universities to support Indigenous students and students from low SES and regional backgrounds.

The IRLSAF combines the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP), regional loading, enabling loading and relevant elements of the National Institutes Grant. Funding for these programs will be distributed according to existing policy guidelines until 2023.

The Government will work with the sector to design the IRLSAF model to support equity outcomes. This model will be implemented from 2024. The IRLSAF will allow universities to use their funding more flexibly to best serve the needs of their local communities.

Enhanced research capacity at regional universities

The package encourages regional higher education institutions to develop research capacity and create long-term collaborative relationships with other institutions, either in Australia or internationally. Universities can partner with local industry on research that aligns with their own strengths.

The grants program will also support regional universities to develop research infrastructure in their area which will support regional communities. Regional communities account for 28 per cent of the population, but only 13.4 per cent of research training students and 9.8 per cent of PhD and other higher degree by research completions in 2017. The grants program responds to Recommendation 6, Action 29 of the Napthine Review.

Regional Education Commissioner

The Regional Education Commissioner will oversee and coordinate the effort to implement the National Regional, Rural and Remote Tertiary Education Strategy (Napthine Review).

The Regional Education Commissioner (the Commissioner) will coordinate the development of regional and remote education and work to address the complex factors driving the disparity in regional education outcomes. The appointment of a Commissioner responds to recommendation 7, action 32 of the Napthine Review.

The Commissioner will be responsible for addressing targets set in the Napthine Review, and has a broad remit across all education matters, from early childhood through to higher education, including both university and vocational education and training.

Redistribution pool of medical places

The Health and Education portfolios are cooperating to better manage the supply of medical graduates and expand opportunities for learning and training in rural Australia. In 2021 this will include establishing a pool of medical Commonwealth supported places (CSPs) in regional areas - drawn from existing university allocations to give flexibility to support emerging health workforce priorities.

A small pool of 32 commencing medical Commonwealth supported places will be established from 2021. These places will be allocated to Charles Sturt University for its new rural medical school in partnership with Western Sydney University at Orange, NSW (as part of the Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network).

A decision on increasing the size of the redistribution pool will be deferred until the National Medical Workforce Strategy Framework is developed – expected in 2021.

The pool will be established through a contribution of one per cent of commencing places from each medical school with more than 100 medical CSP commencements a year, using the number of Commonwealth supported medical graduates as a proxy for those commencements. To minimise the impact on medical schools with 100 or fewer commencements, they will not contribute places.

Universities with a net reduction in medical Commonwealth supported places through the 2021 redistribution pool will be allowed an equivalent increase in international full-fee paying medical enrolments.

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