Legislative Council: Thursday, July 06, 2023


Regional Students

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:42): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question without notice of the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of regional students.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Last week, the Malinauskas government announced plans for a new university to be created by the merging of the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia. The announcement was coupled with a commitment from the Premier for a $100 million perpetual fund to support students from low socio-economic groups to enrol in the new university.

According to the demographic data resource .idcommunity, 1.5 per cent of regional people in South Australia are attending university compared with 5.6 per cent of their metro counterparts in Greater Adelaide. My questions to the minister therefore are:

1. What proportion of the perpetual fund will be allocated to regional students?

2. What role has the minister played in ensuring that the perpetual fund will meet the needs of people from low socio-economic backgrounds in the regions?

3. Has the minister read the business case for the university merger?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:43): I thank the honourable member for his question. First, we have had some very productive discussions within various forums of the government around the need for support for people from low socio-economic backgrounds, including those from regional areas—I certainly have raised the specific issue of regional students within those discussions.

The $100 million perpetual fund is a huge achievement, assuming the creation of the new university does proceed. It is a huge achievement in addressing some of the inequities that exist within our communities, including between metropolitan and regional residents. The ability to access high-quality education is something we as a government are absolutely committed to.

One of the things I am very pleased about is that the proposed new institution is being formed with a view to growing, and that may well result in growth into regional areas, either by expanding what is there or by expanding into new areas that do not currently have campuses. Of course, that will be the specific decision of the institution concerned, as decisions of the existing institutions are at the moment, but it is something I think is very exciting for our state and I look forward to seeing that further develop.

Since the honourable member also mentioned, in his opening remarks, that this was about regional students, I might take the opportunity to draw members' attention to another recent announcement we made, which was around the Regional Skills Fund, and specifically about enabling students in regional areas to better access TAFE courses.

Prior to now there has been a requirement that there be a minimum of 12 students to be able to run a course in a regional area, but that has now been reduced to five students. That means there is a real opportunity for more courses to be run in regional locations, and that is an additional boost for people living in our thriving regions.