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$268 million to transform regional higher education in Australia::

Regional universities will receive the vast majority of a Gillard Government investment of almost $400 million to support new state-of-the-art teaching and learning facilities at university campuses across the nation.

Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans, said the investment was part of the Government’s commitment to removing the barriers to higher education and opening the doors of Australia’s universities to all students, no matter where they live.

Regional universities will receive $268 million of the $377 million Gillard Government program.

“The funding will assist our regional universities to improve the quality of teaching and learning by improving access to world-class facilities, expanding course offerings and enhancing pathways between Institutes of TAFE and universities,” Senator Evans said.

“This adds to a range of initiatives already announced that will boost higher education opportunities for regional Australians.”

Minister for Regional Australia, Simon Crean, said the number of regional students attending university was once again on the increase after a decade of decline under the Howard Government.

“This is a great outcome for regional communities and is a direct result of the Gillard Government’s investment in higher education in our regions,” Mr Crean said.

“Regional universities have strong relationships with their local communities and are vital partners in social and economic development of Australia’s regions.

"Young people who study in the regions tend to stay in the regions.”

The new funding will be shared by University of New England, University of Ballarat, Charles Sturt University, Charles Darwin University, Central Queensland University, Southern Cross University, University of Southern Queensland and Bachelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education.

Today’s announcement complements other Government initiatives which are transforming the face of higher education in regional Australia and making university study a reality for more Australians than ever before.

From 2012, additional funding of $249.4 million will be provided through regional loading to help regional universities overcome the higher costs of operating regional campuses compared with their capital city counterparts.

Regional universities and other tertiary institutions are also eligible for new infrastructure funding under the $500 million Regional Priorities Round of the Education Investment Fund. The Australian Government is currently considering applications under the fund to help build world-class education and training facilities for students in regional Australia.

In addition, regional students are already benefiting from the major reforms to Youth Allowance introduced in 2010, which have delivered significant increases in funding to assist students to access university education.

This year, total support for Youth Allowance for higher education will exceed $1.25 billion – a more than 50 per cent increase on the $800 million outlay in the last year of the former Coalition Government.

As a consequence of the Government’s Youth Allowance reforms, the number of students from regional areas accessing Youth Allowance is up 26 per cent since March 2010.

Mr Crean said regional university communities are great places to study, live and build a career.

“That’s why we are investing more in regional tertiary education than ever before.”

07 December 2011