OUR SAY: Course choice key to keeping students regional

A RECENT study into the patterns of university student movement across the country raises a number of important questions, and not just from a regional perspective.

We know from the study that more regional students are moving to metropolitan areas to study.

We also know that regional universities still have a significant edge, retaining 70 per cent of the available students.

However, researchers are saying the outflux of students to the metro areas could have government policy implications going forward.  

After all, if regional universities are taking fewer students, should metropolitan universities receive more funding to cover their burgeoning numbers of students?

On one level, the answer has to be yes because some students have to move to study the course of their choice. 

This paper has previously interviewed a design student who could only find the right course in Sydney.

It has long been a complaint that students who have no choice but to move face a disadvantage in metro areas.

They face a huge leap in responsibility to balance studies and work, manage far higher living costs than they’re used to and play an adult role in a household.

Therefore, the assistance they and the universities receive for their place is also justified in order to cut the level of inequality.

But Charles Sturt University’s fight for the Murray Darling Medical School is a symptom of this trend: students who study in metro areas tend to stay in metro areas.

Those who study regionally, however, are far more likely to provide their expertise where they’re needed most.

For some students, moving away for university is a lifestyle choice and a rite of passage – trying to keep them regional has little point.

But the increasing number of students moving interstate for university is indicative that they consider Sydney too expensive. 

Could they be encouraged to stay closer to home? It could very well be possible.

To do that, the choice has to be there – students have to be able to study the course they want.

It is here where government could play a role. 

If it is not inclined to cap places at metropolitan universities, perhaps funding regional universities expand their range of offerings could be the next best thing.