The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Professor Jan Thomas has welcomed the Federal Governmentâ€™s Review of the Demand Driven Student Funding System saying that the reportâ€™s recommendations will enable a new generation of Australians to obtain a university qualification.
Professor Thomas said she welcomed the Reviewâ€™s main findings released today (Sunday April 13) that the demand driven system should be maintained for bachelor degree places, and the system expanded to include sub-bachelor places, and postgraduate places in courses with clear community benefit and modest financial rewards such as teaching, nursing and some other health disciplines.
She said since the government lifted its quota system on university enrolments it had allowed a number of first in family and those from low socio-economic regions to go on to higher education. Professor Thomas went on to say the reportâ€™s recommendation to continue the demand driven system will allow universities like USQ to better prepare students for the workforce and establish pathway programs that better meet the needs of students.
According to Professor Thomas many students coming from rural and regional areas were the first in the family to go on to higher education. â€œUnlike the majority of those who attend metropolitan universities and whose parents already have qualifications, those from low socio-economic backgrounds are more likely to struggle in the university system without ongoing support.â€
Professor Thomas said USQ has been making determined efforts over the past few years to ensure that students enrolling in its courses were given every assistance to succeed.
Under the review universities will be encouraged to put in place a number of pathway programs for students allowing them to better assimilate into university life and enrol in specifically aligned entry programs that lead into degree level qualifications. “We need though to ensure that any changes to the university system are done in association with employer bodies so that graduates are ready for the workplace and that universities aren’t enrolling students simply to get their numbers up,” she said.
The review has also acknowledged the ground breaking work universities are doing in online learning and encouraged the development of digital based courses suitable for those who wish to study from home.
â€œAt USQ more than 75 percent of our 28,000 students study online and with the reviewâ€™s recommendation to foster continued growth in this area USQ will be able to take a leading role in the development of new and existing programs using a broad range of new technologies,â€ Professor Thomas said.
One of the reportâ€™s findings is for spiralling education costs to be reined in with the recommendation to consider adjusting the balance between a user pays system and contributions provided by government. â€œAny increase in student costs will be offset by way of government supported loans and fee help assistance programs.â€ The report also proposes extending the demand driven system to non-university providers that have met the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency registration requirements and course approvals.
Professor Thomas said the extension of the system could build on the significant partnerships or dual arrangements that already exist between regional TAFEs and regional universities.