How a regional campus can benefit country students

The issue of regional students being able to access a university education has been in the headlines this week, after federal Education Minister Dan Tehan revealed that a young person in inner Sydney is twice as likely to go to university than a school leaver in his seat.

Minister Tehan's seat is Wannon, which encompasses the nearby cities and towns of Warrnambool, Portland, Hamilton, Ararat, and Halls Gap. 

Encouraging country students to engage with tertiary studies is a priority for the University of South Australia, which have regional campuses in Mount Gambier and Whyalla. 

The university's Pro Vice Chancellor: Student Engagement and Equity Professor, Carol Grech, believes that investing in higher education facilities in rural areas will have positive outcomes for both students and regional communities. 

"We know from studies by the Australian Council for Educational Research that only 26 per cent of regional students who move to a metropolitan campus to study go on to further their careers in regional areas," Professor Grech said.

"At the same time, 66 per cent of students who study in a regional area return to work in regional areas. Industries in regional and rural Australia are keen to employ graduates who are regionally-connected and committed to their communities."

There is also the financial and emotional stress of regional students needing to relocate to metropolitan campuses, continued Professor Grech. Being away from their home means additional accommodation costs on top of paying for things such as transport, food, and bills. Students can also feel isolated from traditional support systems such as their family and friends.

At the Mount Gambier campus, Chris Ronan is the Regional Engagement Officer, who works closely with staff, students, and industry to create more opportunities for future graduates in the region. 

Mr Ronan has seen 100 more students enrol to study at Mount Gambier this year, with the campus's catchment area being the Limestone Coast, the Wimmera (including Horsham and Kaniva), and even coastal cities such as Warrnambool and Portland. There have been some students from Naracoorte enrol to study nursing, and the campus now offers a Diploma of Health. 

Health is one of the primary focus areas of the campus, with midwifery being a recently added course. Other courses include education (early childhood and primary), foundation studies, the Aboriginal pathway program, music, and social work.

Scholarships that are available for students undertaking degrees at Mount Gambier campus include:

  • Cowan Regional Placement Grant
  • Wattle Range Council UniSA Study Grant
  • UniSA Scholarship for Student Leadership
  • Cowan Regional Grant
  • Rotary District 9780 UniSA Grant
  • Don Hawke Memorial Scholarship
  • Resthaven 80th Anniversary Undergraduate Nursing Scholarship
  • Resthaven Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Allied Health Scholarship