Anthony Albanese visits UoN Ourimbah Campus

Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese chats to students at Ourimbah Campus

The Federal Government plans to move $33M currently spent on enabling programs in universities to the new Indigenous, Regional and Low SES Attainment Fund (IRLSAF).

The plan was front and centre when Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese visited the Ourimbah campus of Newcastle University on October 15, accompanied by Member for Dobell Emma McBride and Senator Deborah O’Neill.

Albanese chatted to students about their concerns that those who don’t fit into the Indigenous, Regional or Low SES boxes will miss out on support.

The pollies learnt of students’ successes through the NewStep, Open Foundation and Yapug enabling programs.

These are free university pathway programs helping students gain admission to undergraduate degrees even though they don’t have the qualifications for direct entry to their chosen degree or didn’t complete Year 12.

Albanese said giving people the chance to succeed mattered.

“I was the first person in my family to finish school let alone go to university,” he said.

“I know the difference education can make to someone’s life – and these students know it too.

“The students I spoke to are learning to become teachers, nurses and social workers – because they want to give back to their community.

“Programs like this matter.”

McBride said she was very concerned about the implications of the changes to the Higher Education Support Amendment (Job-ready Graduates and Supporting Regional and Remote Students) Bill 2020.

“Enabling programs must be free and widely available so every person on the Central Coast gets a fair go at higher education,” she said.

“Research by the university suggests most students would not attempt an enabling program if fees were introduced.

“We already know that cost is a barrier for too many locals seeking further education.

“Many of the graduates from enabling programs at Ourimbah Campus go on to study nursing and social work.

“Why is the government making it harder for students to gain the skills they need to secure a job in growth sectors in our local economy?”

In a submission to the Parliament, University of Newcastle, Deakin University and Australian Technology Network of Universities said the greater focus on IRLSAF was commendable, but there needed to be a certainty of funding for existing and proposed equity programs and for students who fall outside these three equity groups.

But Member for Robertson, Lucy Wicks, said more Australians will get the opportunity to study for a university degree from next year, with more support for students from regional and rural Australia after the Government’s Job-ready Graduates legislation passed on October 19.

“There is no reduction of enabling funding in the new higher education reforms and support for enabling programs continues under the Job-ready Graduates Program,” she said.

“In fact, the IRLSAF expands eligibility to include Indigenous and regional students while under Labor it was limited to low SES students.

“To meet the objective of simplifying funding structures, the new IRLSAF is an umbrella vehicle for holding a variety of existing funding streams which includes the enabling loading grant.

“The IRLSAF will allow universities to use their funding more flexibly to best serve the needs of their local communities.

“The Morrison Government supports enabling programs as an important vehicle for entry into tertiary education for students with an educational disadvantage.”

Terry Collins