Tertiary barriers ongoing

The divide in university deferrals by Gippsland and regional Victorian students, compared to their metropolitan counterparts, has been reaffirmed by a recently released report.

The Deferring a University Offer in Regional Victoria report found non-metropolitan deferral rates at 15.6 per cent in 2011, compared with 8.4 per cent in metropolitan areas.

The figures represented a marginal increase on 2010 deferment figures, at 15.2 (non-metropolitan) and 7.8 (metro) per cent.

Latrobe Local Learning and Employment Network coordinator Mick Murphy said the figures highlighted the ongoing barriers faced by Gippsland secondary students transitioning into tertiary education.

“It gives some comparisons for the first time with Melbourne students, especially around the capacity of students to relocate to metropolitan areas for study, and to earn supplementary income,” Mr Murphy said.

“The statistics show virtually the closer you are to university, the more likely you are to connect with it as community; as such, the Latrobe Valley is only slightly better off because Monash University Churchill is in our backyard ,” Mr Murphy said.

The State Government-commissioned report, aimed to understand the demographics of deferrers and their barriers to tertiary education, studied a cohort of 2009 year 12 leavers through 2010 and 2011, and found one third of regional deferrers were still not in university by 2011.

Appropriate courses not being offered locally and the requirement to leave home were listed by more than 30 per cent of non-metropolitan students among their top five reasons for deferral.

The report also found regional students were four times more likely to report they did not take up their studies because they had been waiting to qualify for Youth Allowance.

In December 2011, the State Government-commissioned Gippsland Tertiary Education Plan established 10 recommendations addressing factors affecting tertiary education access and attainment in Gippsland, which included ensuring improved access to education facilities.

Mr Murphy said the latest report’s findings hastened the need for the GTEP recommendations to be implemented, which were designed to improve aspiration and access to tertiary education, through further establishment of regional education centres and improving related public and private transport linkages.

A spokesperson for State Higher Education Minister Peter Hall said the State Government understood the prohibitive cost of living away from home was the single biggest barrier to further study or training for people from regional areas, but was working to deliver a greater range of higher education programs in regional centres.

“We know through research that students who study close to home tend to stay in their local community (and) often establishing their careers there,” the spokesperson said.