The growing number of Regional University Centres has proven to be an invaluable resource for university students who live far from a campus or are studying online. Early evaluations have shown that these centres are very effective in supporting students from remote and regional Australia who are historically underrepresented at university and at high risk of dropping out. One student stated: I would have probably stopped the course if it wasn’t for [their learning skills adviser] that I saw.
The number of centres is now 26 and is managed locally by not-for profit boards that are independent from the community. These centres work in partnership with universities to provide face-to-face learning opportunities for students from remote and regional areas. Each centre offers quiet study areas, computers, internet, study support, and peer company.
These Centres Are Students Necessary For What?
About half of Australians living in remote areas are more likely to hold a university degree than those who live in cities. The educational gap begins early. High school students in these areas are about 30% less likely to complete year 12 than those from cities.
Research shows that this isn’t because these young people don’t want to go university. Students and their families face major obstacles due to the high cost of tuition and the emotional and physical disruption that comes with moving away from home.
Online learning has been embraced and expanded by the pandemic. Online learning has allowed more students from remote areas to study in their own communities. Regional study is more likely to lead you to work in the region, which can boost your local economy.
Online Education’s Challenges Students
Online learning has brought online education’s challenges into the limelight. These challenges were only experienced by a small number of people until recently. There is now a greater awareness about the need for better support for online students from all over the world, even those who live outside of major cities.
Online learning presents challenges in the form of technology and connectivity issues. These problems are more common in remote and regional Australia. Another barrier is isolation from other students and teachers. These challenges are being addressed by students at regional university centres. Students can learn, connect with other students, access high-speed internet, information technology, and receive help with their studies at each centre.
13 of the 26 centres in Australia are part of the Country Universities Centre network. One student from one of these centres stated: It is difficult to get reliable internet because I live 20km away from the town. Access to CUC has been a huge help. Because I love it there, I feel more motivated to keep going with my studies.
Early Evaluations Have Shown That Centres Are Efficient
Since 2018, the number of Regional University Centres in the country has been steadily increasing. Since 2018, the number of Regional University Centres has steadily increased across the country. This growth was fueled by community willpower, and funded by both local government and local industry. CUC evaluations are beginning to show a positive effect on student.
The Learning Skills Advisor (LSA), a program that provides general academic skills sessions throughout the CUC network, is one example. This is the first in-house evaluation. It provides a fascinating snapshot of students who attended LSA sessions between March 2020 and July 2021. Also, it shows the overall impact of the program.
Strong representation was seen among students from government equity groups. These included students from low socioeconomic (SES) and Indigenous (9%) backgrounds. 53% of them were among the first to go to university. 65.5% of them were 25-years-old or older, while 46% were part-time students.
Historically Underrepresented Students
Research shows that online, Indigenous, and part-time students are historically underrepresent at universities. They are more likely not to graduate if they manage to get into university.
- Recent snapshots show that the centres reach students who are most at-risk.
- Very positive feedback from students
- It is evident that the LSA program has had positive effects. This evaluation revealed:
- 93% of participants reported feeling more confident in their studies
- 96% of respondents were more motivated
- Higher grades achieve by 97.5%
- 95% of respondents were more likely continue their studies.
- Students found the practical information useful.
- I was able to learn about various ways to search for information. Able to get ideas on how to organize information and structure essays better.
- I learned how to reference as I went, adding the reference to my bibliography when I found the source.
- Students’ confidence and motivation to succeed increased as did their grades. This is evident in their responses:
- Managed an HD/D average. This is due to the support I received from [LSA].
- Gave me the edge for exam day.
- My confidence is high and my marks follow suit.
- They valued the ability to study in a place that provided all of the necessary facilities.
- Perfect study space away from distractions, with everything you need right in one place.
These preliminary evaluation results are very encouraging. These preliminary evaluations show that local support can motivate and encourage remote students. They can persevere and succeed by building their confidence and skills. CUC students are currently undergoing a more formal evaluation. These results will be publish in the early part of 2022.
Early results show that Regional University Centres complement the online education provided by universities. These centres are making a significant impact with their technology, physical space and face-to–face support. This is a win for all, not just students and universities but also regional, rural, and remote communities.