Microsoft word - aucea submission on regional loadings.doc
Australian Universities Community Engagement Alliance c/- University of Newcastle Corporate Development and Community Partnerships Chancellery Building University Drive CALLAGHAN NSW 2308 T +61 2 4921 7961 F +61 2 4921 6889 www.aucea.net.au
Response to the Issues Paper: “Review of Regional Loading-Issues for Regional Provision” Introduction
The Australian Universities Community Engagement Alliance (AUCEA) is an alliance of Australian
universities committed to university-community engagement. AUCEA aims to promote the social,
environmental and economic and cultural development of communities through higher education,
research, innovation and leadership in ways that are mutually beneficial for the university and their
communities. This submission recognises a diversity of views among member organisations and that
these will differ in matters of emphasis. These views nonetheless reflect an overall concern for the
adequate funding of regional delivery recognising both increased costs and reduced opportunity for
earning income. These views also emphasise the importance of the physical presence of university
campuses and staff in the regions which are conducive to enhanced participation, engagement and
At its first National Conference in 2004, AUCEA emphasised the importance of higher education for
regions across Australia. However, it also recognised that in being responsive to the community needs
of Australia’s regions, universities are challenged by the constraints identified in the Bradley Review
and aptly summarised in the Key Issues outlined in the Review of Regional Loading paper (DEEWR,
2009, p2). Most recently, the Partner Survey component of the AUCEA Benchmarking Pilot,
undertaken by 10 member universities, has confirmed the strong community and cross sectoral
community relationships already established by regional campuses and the regional impact of this
However, AUCEA suggests that a different concept for determining the allocation of loadings is
required if we are to develop a “new more logical basis for funding” (DEEWR, 2009, p1) and to achieve
greater participation and engagement with communities.
1. that the present higher education regional loadings scheme be discontinued in favour of a new
scheme that has two underlying principles:
a. a much simpler formulation, statistically and spatially. The present scheme is
convoluted in its calculation and its use of the concept ‘region’ is inaccurate.
b. targeting of those institutions and regional communities, wherever they are located, that
can demonstrate that the operating cost of that location;
i. is an impediment to realising greater levels of higher education participation for
ii. stands in the way of strengthening institutional viability, and
iii. impacts on its capacity to contribute significantly to the region’s future through
• provide evidence of existing regional engagement on the basis of campuses and staff located in
• provide evidence in the form of measurable targets and timelines that participation levels can be
raised to a sufficiently higher level within a reasonable period;
• identify initiatives and measurable targets that enhance the wider role of higher education as an
economic driver by strengthening the human capital in those regions in which it has a presence;
• compile a human capability strategic plan (ie beyond human capital), in association with other
education sectors and regional community partners, as the centre piece for achieving (i) and (ii);
and targets that can demonstrate strengthened institutional viability through
the implementation of the plans in (i), (ii) and (iii) above.
2. That the performance targets and measures in 1(b) be in the form of a negotiated partnership
agreement between the higher education institution (on behalf of the relevant campus), its
regional community, represented by key regional university partners , and the Government that
effectively connects the research, learning and teaching and community engagement mission of
the university. It should be noted that some AUCEA members feel that the regional loading
simply be based on participation and should not form part of a performance–based compact; if
this is the case, the individual University submissions take precedence over this joint
3. That the total funding available be an indexed increase of the amount under the present
regional loading scheme. AUCEA recommends a one off increase in the total funding in addition
to the indexation. The negotiated loading would need to take into account the cost of the
process of supporting engaged learning. The increased loading reflects not only the greater
direct costs to the institution (eg in staff travel to conferences) but also the reduced capacity of
those institutions to access income from major businesses, consultancy or international
Benefits of the proposed model
• does not rely on convoluted statistical/ formulaic analysis and is not based on misconceptions
• targets those institutions and regional communities that can clearly identify cost as an
impediment to realising identified potential higher education participation levels within a
• is based on a negotiated agreement between the university and key regional partners that
encompasses the tripartite mission of the university rather than a complex formulaic model or
competitive grants scheme not conducive to good dialogue;
• directly contributes to the enhanced viability of the institution through initiatives that focus on a
regional mission to strengthen human capital outcomes;
• is consistent with the objectives of the 2008 Review of Higher Education in raising higher
education participation and completions;
• enhances the contribution of regional economies to national outcomes, reduces current
widening spatial economic disparity and overcomes unnecessary ‘brain drain’ from regional
communities, particularly in non-metropolitan areas, by contributing to the realisation of human
capability regionally and strategically;
• includes “outer urban” campuses in the discussion; and
• benefits students by enhancing their employment prospects in the region where they live by
building their ‘enterprising’ capabilities, participating in work experience with local institutions
and industries and potentially finding employment in the region after graduation. Such students,
rather than being the subject of the underemployed in the region or the ‘brain drain’ from the
region, with the model proposed would have more positive outcomes for the capabilities they
The regional loadings policy was announced as part of the post-Crossroads (Nelson 2002) white paper
Our universities: Backing Australia's future (Nelson 2003).
The policy was introduced to enhance higher education participation in those regions outside
metropolitan areas where it was claimed operating cost proves an impediment to achieving this goal.
The policy was also a response to the trend in university campus regionalisation that has occurred in
Australia over the past three decades with many campuses now located outside the metropolitan
There are now more than 160 university campuses in this country and many more university teaching
and learning access centres. About one-third of these campuses are located in non-metropolitan
areas. Much of this regionalisation of universities has come about over the past three decades on the
back of efficiency and equity policy arguments, in response to the dual forces of demographic change
(growth and geographic shift) and the massification in higher education.
On the equity side there has been a long standing concern at the imbalance in higher education
participation between metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas (including low SES), and in rural and
remote areas in particular. On the efficiency side there has been a policy of higher education
institutions reducing their financial dependency on government funding. At the same time, many believe
that the university might be an engine to boost national priority outcomes through stronger regional
Higher education institutions have argued that in order to deliver on these equity and efficiency goals
they need to be subsidised for the additional costs of their operation in non-metropolitan centres. There
have been various studies that have identified the apparent higher costs of non-metropolitan operation.
These tend to relate to the cost of smaller classes, duplication of services, difficulties in recruiting staff,
and in some cases, needing to provide additional student support. There are also significantly reduced
opportunities for income generation whether from large business, consultancy or international students.
DEEWR’s own research indicates that in relative terms higher education participation in non-
metropolitan Australia has fallen further below that for metropolitan Australia. This research follows
earlier work by DEST (Stevenson et al 1999 and 2001, Cumpston et al 2001) that highlighted the
growing disparity in higher education participation between metropolitan and non-metropolitan
Australia. These findings have been reinforced by a number of reports and studies nationally. For
example, the Outer Urban Higher Education Working Party established by the Victorian Government in
2003 found that this disparity was also evident in outer urban areas. In 2001 the ratio of equivalent full
time student university places to population in inner Melbourne areas was between two and seven
times greater than the ratio in outer metropolitan areas (Langworthy, 2003) and the On Track Project
longitudinal research into the destinations of schools leavers consistently demonstrates lower levels of
post-secondary educational engagement in outer urban and regional areas (Teese,R., Polesel, J et al,
Regional engagement and human capability
Research by Garlick, Taylor and Plummer (2007) and Taylor et al (2008) argues that access to human
capital is the most significant driver of regional economic development in Australia and it is the growing
unequal access to this human capital that mostly contributes to the growing economic disparity
between high growth major metropolitan regions and the remainder of the nation. This research called
for a greater focus on ‘enterprising’ human capital initiatives by universities for regional development. It
also called the leadership role of universities to be strengthened, in partnership with other education
providers and regional communities to ensure there is a strategic approach to building broader human
capability outcomes in the region and reducing leakage through ‘brain drain’ and underemployment. It
is important that this development should be in situ in the region and not rely on a hubs and spokes
model which encourages ‘internal colonialism’ and a dependence on metropolitan universities.
There are good examples of co-located TAFE Institutes and Universities and there is opportunity for a
more integrated education sector in the regions, including from the earliest ages of education
(Heckman 1999, 2007), with programs designed collaboratively providing more effective pathways.
There are also good examples of learning in the workplace that provide models for how ‘enterprising’
capabilities can be fostered in an integrated way with education sector pathways and with regional
industry and of engaged research which supports regional development
It is suggested that universities have a key role in contributing to stronger regional economy outcomes
because of their focus on knowledge creation and dissemination, their spatial distribution, and their
potential for relative freedom of institutional thought and expression.
A regional human capabilities approach emphasises individual ‘ambition’ and ‘opportunity’ in human
capital, rather than narrow competency-oriented, path dependent learning to meet specified
commodity-oriented objectives (Sen 2009). Sen emphasises the relevance of the human capability
approach for communities, as communities can shape and be shaped by an individual’s broad
capability. This capability is developed through teaching and research engaged with the locality and
The presence of a successful and visible university working with other education entities and with
business and the community can assist in raising the aspirations of young people, and consequently
Capabilities include both cognitive and non-cognitive characteristics, where the level of return on
investing in them is influenced by ‘sensitive periods’ and ‘critical periods’ in the human life cycle,
particularly during youth and where there is evidence of a certain pre-existing level of capability
The term ‘regional’ should not be used to refer to only certain parts of the country and not others. As a
spatial concept it refers to all areas with a particular set of defining economic, social, administrative,
physical, and community of interest characteristics that distinguish it from other areas whether they are
metropolitan or non-metropolitan. Historically this has been the case in Australia for many years and is
The questions raised in the Issues Paper and the design of the current regional loading defined under
the Commonwealth Grant Scheme highlight the tangle that occurs when ‘regional’ is used as a dividing
notion in recognising the location of a higher education institution for policy funding.
The Issues Paper appears to define ‘regional’ as places that are outside metropolitan areas. However,
some of the most historically significant regions in Australia are in metropolitan areas such as western
Sydney, western Melbourne and northern Adelaide. The universities supporting higher education
provision in these “outer metropolitan” regions have no less a connection with their communities than
do other non-metropolitan located universities. If it is the intent of the Issues Paper to focus only on
non-metropolitan centres then it should simply refer to ‘non-metropolitan’, but not ‘regional’. The 2008
Review of Higher Education makes the same error.
The result of this misuse of the term ‘regional’ is that location, and in particular the costs of provision in
that location, is used as a determinant for higher education funding rather than using higher education
focus and mission. The OECD regards the connection between regions and universities as relating
equally to large metropolitan centres and small rural centres:
This submission suggests that it is wrong to design a policy on this divide between metropolitan and
non-metropolitan and that funding should focus instead on an institutional mission tied to spatial
considerations that relate to human capability outcomes in the regional community through stronger
higher education connectivity with other education sectors and with regional business and the
Other simple indicators of regionality have been proposed by some partner members of AUCEA.
These include university campuses in regions with populations less than 100,000, or numbers of
university staff located in regions as a proxy measure of engagement. This submission recognises that
the member universities of AUCEA have a diversity of perspectives but all are concerned for an
effective solution to regionally-engaged provision which is based on physical presence and genuine
community engagement. If member universities have proposed other measures, then the submissions
of those individual universities take precedence over this joint submission.
Those supporting the simple structural view of university location often quote regional economic
multiplier figures to support the case that the university is a valuable part of the local community.
These multipliers do not see the university as a knowledge creator and distributor, but one that values
the non-transaction-based knowledge activity of the university and the community at zero. They do not
include the knowledge generating core business of the university, nor the knowledge and creativity of
the community, nor do they see the community as a place of opportunity based on its own unique mix
of economic, social, cultural, and natural attributes and history.
It is noted that there is little mention of students in the Issues paper, and there is opportunity to include
consideration of the benefits of studying in the region where they live, participating in work experience
with local institutions and industries and potentially finding employment in the region after graduation.
With the model proposed in this submission, such students, rather than being the subject of the
underemployed in the region or the ‘brain drain’ from the region, would have more positive outcomes
AUCEA considers that DEEWR has a significant opportunity to address the issue of increased
participation of regional students in higher education consistent with the Bradley Review, to assist
universities to take an even greater role in developing regional economies, and human capabilities with
a new approach to regional loading in the way suggested in this Submission. AUCEA would be happy
to engage with DEEWR in further discussion about how such a new scheme might work in practice.
Cumpston, A., Blakers, R., Evans, C., Maclachlan, M., Karmel, T. and Garlick, S. 2001. Atlas of Higher Education: A community focus. Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Occasional paper
Department of Education, Employment and workplace Relations (DEEWR) ( 2009_ Review of
Regional Loading- Issues for Regional Provision: Issues Paper
Garlick, S., Taylor, M., and Plummer, P. (2007).An enterprising approach to regional growth: Implications for policy and the role of vocational education and training. NCVER, Adelaide.
Heckman, J. (2007). The economics, technology, and neuroscience of human capability formation.
Heckman, J. (1999). Policies to foster human capital. Research in Economics, 54, 3-56.
Langworthy, A. (2004) “Outer Urban Higher Education Working Party Report”,
Langworthy, A. (2009) “Indicators of Community Engagement: Learning from the AUCEA
Benchmarking Pilot”, paper presented at the Australian Universities Quality Forum Alice Springs p106.
Nelson, B. 2002. Universities at the Crossroads: A Review of Australian Higher Education. Department
of Education, Science and Training, Canberra.
Nelson, B. 2003. Our Universities: Backing Australia's Future. Department of Education, Science and
OECD. Higher education in regional and city development
OECD. Further reading and useful links: Higher education in regional and city development.
Sen, A. (2009). The Idea of Justice. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
Stevenson, S., Maclachlan, M., and Karmel, T. 1999. Regional participation in higher education and the distribution of higher education resources across region. Department of Education, Training and Youth
Affairs, Occasional Paper No. 99-B, Canberra.
Stevenson, S., Evans, C., Maclachlan, M., Karmel, T., and Blakers, R. 2001. Access: Effects of campus proximity and socio-economic status on university participation rates in regions. Department of
Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Occasional Paper No. 00-D, Canberra.
Taylor, M., Plummer, P., Bryson, J., and Garlick, S. (2008). The Role of Universities in Building Local
Economic Capacities. Politics and Polity, 36 (2), 216-231.
Teese, R., Nicholas, T., Polesel, J., & Mason, K. (2007). The Destinations of School Leavers in Victoria : Report of the 2006 On Track project. Melbourne: Department of Education and Training
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