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Rural students underrepresented at university

Monday, 26 May, 2014

The state government released a report last month on access to higher education for rural students.

The report, compiled by Victorian Auditor-General John Doyle, found rural students continue to lag behind their metropolitan counterparts in both access to higher education and academic performance. It also found the high cost of attending university and lower academic results were the major reasons behind the lower admissions in tertiary education.

Office of Admissions Associate Director of National Markets at the University of Melbourne Wendy Holden said the university is trying to curb these barriers.

“Last year regional and rural students from Victoria accounted for only 13 per cent of the 2013 cohort,” she said. “That’s not a huge number, but it is increasing slightly and we are committed to increasing that number,” Holden said.

Access Melbourne is a university initiative that aims to make studying at the university more accessible to regional students by providing alternative entry pathways. It allows eligible students to study at the university even if they did not receive the ATAR score.

In 2013, those who applied to the Access Melbourne scheme could enter the Arts, Science or Environments undergraduate degrees if they achieved an ATAR of 78. They could enter Biomedicine if they achieved 95.

“Essentially what we have done is put in guarantees for two cohorts—financially disadvantaged and regional students—through the Access Melbourne program. Without the program we would probably see fewer students from these backgrounds,” Holden said.

“It is about the university recognising that living in regional or remote Australia sometimes means there isn’t the same access to facilities that students in metropolitan areas have.”

Students who apply through Access Melbourne are also eligible for several equity scholarships. These aim to make living and studying away from home easier for regional students.

Rural scholarships include the Mildura Alumni Scholarship and the Sir Samuel Wadham Rural Student Scholarship.

Regional students who are also considering living in a university-affiliated college have extensive funding opportunities possible. In some cases, the Residential College Scholarships have funded the entire cost of college.

Last year the colleges collectively provided $3.5 million in financial assistance to students