The University of Regional Australia?

The Universities Accord interim report indicates an interest in the establishment of a National Regional University (following the 2008 Bradley Review recommendation for just such an institution).

The interim report states:

The Review is considering the views of stakeholders who believe that establishing a NRU as a second national university, with a distinctive institutional and educational model shaped by Australian geography, would be an important opportunity to create a planned approach to our national-regional education footprint. It could support high-quality regional education, offer a growing range of opportunities to students from regional communities, and deliver excellence in regional research. It would have a strong regional voice and through its campuses would retain its important local community identity.

Australian Universities Accord Interim Report, 2023, p. 107

The suggestion seems to be that this institution would operate in a kind of federated model similar to some US state university systems. This approach seems designed to overcome concerns about the loss of local connection and identity to existing campuses. It also mentions that existing institutions would have the opportunity to ‘opt in’.

No doubt there are many vested interests in regional higher education who will immediately reject this suggestion, but I think it warrants careful and serious consideration by the Accord and the sector.

At present, regional institutions seem to be headed for a ‘staged withdrawal’ of sorts as well-funded metropolitan universities hoover up both international and domestic markets. Already we have seen deep contraction at many regional institutions and an absolute lack of visionary leadership.

This approach could allow those with a deep interest in regional communities and regional education to come together in a managed, strategic, and transformative way for the benefit of our communities and the nation. Although it will remain to be seen to what extent the final Accord report embraces this notion, I personally would support a government-lead process to establish such an institution building on the strengths and offerings of existing Universities.

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