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Federal Budget offers mixed bag to regional universities

Regional universities received mostly positive news in the Federal Budget announcement last night which outlined the government’s commitments in the Plan for Australia’s Future Population, Destination Australia Program.

University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Vice-Chancellor Professor Geraldine Mackenzie commended more spending in areas such as the introduction of new tertiary scholarships to attract Australian and international students to study in regional Australia.

“The Federal Government will offer $93.7 million over four years for 4,720 new scholarships for domestic and international students to study in regional Australia (up to $15,000 per annum),” she said.

“More good news was delivered with the announcement of an extra year of temporary residency in Australia for international students to study in the regions ($14m over 4 years).”

Professor Mackenzie said she was cautiously optimistic that the package would move the nation towards closing opportunity gaps in regional Australia, but more action was needed.

“The news of the Federal Budget going into surplus is a positive move, so now is the time to invest in Australia’s future by reversing its previous $2.1 billion freeze on student places and $328 million in cuts to university research,” Professor Mackenzie said.

“Investing in education is investing in Australia’s future. Regional universities and their graduates are the lifeblood of our economies and communities.

“Toowoomba and the Western Corridor of Brisbane play an incredibly important role in the Australian economy.

“USQ is integral to the education and training of engineers, scientists, IT professionals, lawyers, accountants, and the teachers and nurses who will continue to work within the region to serve the needs of the growing population.

“To live five to ten minutes from work, to own your own home, to have space for children to live grow and play, these are the benefits our regions have over our capitals.”

Professor Mackenzie also welcomed the $3.4m of STEM initiatives announced in the budget to address the under-representation of women, including the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) initiative.

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Vice-Chancellor Professor Geraldine Mackenzie