Students from regional and remote rural parts of Australia have traditionally been under-represented in higher education. According to the 2009 Bradley Report in its Review of Australian Higher Education, participating rates for both have worsened noticeably in the last five years.
Macquarie University would like to see that trend reversed and is developing a number of initiatives, including an admission bonus points scheme, to attract and recruit regional rural and remote students. Students commencing their tertiary studies in 2011 would be eligible for the scheme.
The Rural Students Bonus Scheme awards bonus points to students from specific geographic areas (based on the student's home postcode) during the admission process using the Federal government's Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA+) to identify potential students. The ARIA+ classification index is already used for a range of national programs.
Bonus points are awarded on a sliding scale according to category of remoteness as defined by the ARIA+ scale: Five for inner and outer regional Australia, seven for remote Australia and nine for very remote Australia.
The University has a lot to offer students from regional and remote rural Australia. Apart from providing a quality educational experience, Macquarie's 126-hectare park-like campus, which now has its own train station, provides students with a welcome respite from the pace and stress of big city living.
Macquarie University's Professor Gail Whiteford, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Social Inclusion) said the Rural Students Bonus Scheme will help to open up the educational possibilities and ultimately broaden the career options for students who come from regional rural and remote Australia.
"When you are in a rural or remote environment, choice can seem limited. In addition you may be the first in the family to attend a university and there may be financial concerns and worries about what life would be like in a large city. Initiatives like the Rural Students Bonus Scheme at Macquarie offer prospective students from rural and remote areas access to a wider world of educational possibilities," she said.
Earlier this year, high school students from regional and remote parts of NSW got a first taste of what it is like to be a Macquarie student when they visited the University as part of the Rural Students University Experience Program. The visit was part of an initiative organised in conjunction with the Country Education Foundation of Australia (CEFA), and the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), and the NSW Department of Education and Training (DET). They also toured and had lunch at one of Macquarie's residential facilities, Dunmore Lang College, where they had a chance to meet and talk with other students from similar backgrounds.
Judging from the positive comments made by the students about their visit to Macquarie, Whiteford said she believes they returned home with a greater sense that distance doesn't have to limit their educational choices.
"Now, the Rural Students Bonus Scheme provides an additional incentive for rural, remote and regional students to pursue their educational goals," she said.