Regional students pricier to teach: report

The cost of teaching regional students at university is far greater than their metropolitan counterparts, according to an economic analysis by Deloitte, which highlighted health and dentistry as the more expensive higher education subjects across Australia.

The Cost of Delivery of Higher Education report, prepared for the Australian government Department of Education and Training, suggests teaching and scholarship costs for regional students are 17 per cent higher than metro-based learners.

The report states: “Since the proportion of regional students is higher on average for universities with campuses in regional areas, this finding suggests that teaching and scholarship costs are likely to be higher at regional campuses.”

The analysis, which factored in higher teacher to student ratios in regional areas, suggested potentially higher operating costs regionally may have contributed to the results.  

Regional students studying in metropolitan areas were also more expensive for universities, according to the recently released report.  

La Trobe University pro vice-chancellor Richard Speed said more regional students meant more diversity. 

“Regional students tend to have lower ATAR scores, not because of ability, but because school systems in the regions don’t give them as great an opportunity to do advanced studies,” Professor Speed said. 

Part-time and mature age students are some of the access groups that tend to have lower attainment

La Trobe University pro vice chancellor Richard Speed

The Australian government, which commissioned the report, had ignored its findings in their 2017/18 budget, he said. 

“There’s funding for people from Indigenous and lower socio-economic backgrounds, but the one group that doesn’t have a direct stream of funding is regional students,” Professor Speed said.

The government’s proposed higher education reform, which plans to make students pay more, will be discussed when parliament sits again in August.