NSW pushes to increase skills in rural Australia

Increasing the numbers of people from rural and regional areas in tertiary education will be a key priority of the new national body tasked with implementing reforms in the area, tertiary education ministers have agreed.

The Standing Council on Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment (SCOTESE)—which was established earlier this year, reporting to the Council of Australian Governments—will look at closing the educational divide between urban and rural areas, including participation in higher vocational courses, such as diplomas, and university degrees. 

More than a quarter of the Australian population live in regional and remote areas but students in these areas make up less than 20 per cent of domestic students at Australian universities, and this proportion is declining.

NSW Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli said all governments have agreed that the future of rural and remote Australia increasingly relies on a higher skilled workforce but that the people from these areas are under-represented in higher education.

"We need to step in and stop this decline. This is not just an issue of equity - skills are a vital part of the economic future of our regions," Mr Piccoli said.  

"Helping young people to stay in school so they can go on to attain higher level qualifications will support economic development in regional and remote areas."

In April, early childhood and schools education ministers agreed that closing the divide between rural and remote students and students in metropolitan areas should be made a strategic priority.

Minister Piccoli said today's announcement aligns the work of SCOTESE to the schooling priorities agreed to in April and will help focus effort on lifting educational achievement in regional Australia.

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