Country Universities Centre
Many regional students are faced with the difficult choice between leaving their family and community or forfeiting the future opportunities that come with having a tertiary degree. Because of this, regional students participate in higher education at less than half the rate of their metropolitan counterparts.
While distance education is widely available, the essential missing piece that Country Universities Centre (CUC) provides is a ‘campus’ environment and all the benefits and supports that come with it. At a CUC, students pursuing any degree can enjoy a student-centric, dedicated space with high-speed internet and videoconferencing facilities, tutorial support, staff to assist with administrative and academic needs, and importantly, a cohort of fellow students, all while remaining in their local community. This initiative was strongly aligned with VFFF’s goal to test new approaches and grow local capacity in regional areas.
To strengthen the CUC delivery model, VFFF funding of $520,049 over three years contributed to one-on-one academic support to students via the employment of Learning Skills Advisors (LSA) across the network.
The CUC program has expanded to 18 communities across NSW, Queensland and Victoria. From 2020 to 2022, a total of 3521 individual consultations between LSAs and CUC students occurred, which equates to one in five CUC students accessing the LSA program. Positive student feedback from student surveys and a growing number of students working with an LSA has indicated that the program is highly valued by students across the CUC network. The Australian Government commissioned an independent evaluation which found that LSA program was best practice in the sector and should be maintained as a key component of the CUC program. The retention, feedback and external evidence has led to the Australian government now providing ongoing funding for the Learning Skills Advisors program.