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    Submission to the Inquiry into Geographical Differences in the Rate in which Victorian Students Participate in

    Higher Education VU is a multi-sector University based in the Western suburbs and City of Melbourne providing courses across Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning, further education, vocational education and higher education in twelve broad Industry and Community Clusters. Our Mission is to transform lives through the power of further education, vocational and higher education, and research. We work collaboratively to develop the capabilities of individuals, enterprises and communities within the western Melbourne region and beyond to build sustainable futures for ourselves and our stakeholders.

    We have invested much thought in recent times to the balance of our work within the western region of Melbourne; our presence in the City and longstanding international relationships, notably in Asia and Europe. Locally, the western suburbs of Melbourne are being reshaped by:

    rapid growth, gentrification and residential development producing a mosaic of social and cultural circumstances across the region

    deep structural changes to the local economy and labour markets with the demise of former manufacturing strengths and emergence of transport, logistics and warehousing with profound implications for the balance between low and knowledge intensive, high skilled jobs

    a continuing mismatch between the demand and supply of a wide range of public and private services, facilities and local amenities.

    VU is committed to continue to serve our region and facilitate knowledge transmission between the west and the world. The Making VU a New School of Thought project 2006 to 2012 includes practical actions to resource three initiatives for a better life in Melbourne’s western suburbs and to share this knowledge with other communities in Australia or overseas that may face similar challenges. Attachment One shows a detailed breakdown of VU’s on shore students by the twelve Industry and Community Clusters. It shows whether the students are from the Western Region1 or elsewhere (other parts of Melbourne, Victoria, and international) by Higher Education and Vocational and Further Education. In summary VU provides its Vocational and Further Education services primarily to students from the Western region (68% of student contact hours). In contrast a substantial base of our Higher Education students are from the West (40% of Higher Education full time equivalent students) but with slightly greater numbers from the rest of Australia and the balance who are international students. The question of the impact of geographic location on access to and success in post school education and training is critical to the success of Victoria University (VU) due to the significant numbers of students from the Western region of Melbourne. The State wide data available to the Committee will confirm that school students in the West are less likely to complete school, less likely to apply for university education, and more inclined to take vocational education courses. Studies by the University, outlined further below (and in Attachment Two), confirm this pattern.

    1 We define the West as including the seven local Government areas of Brimbank, Hobsons Bay, Hume, Maribrynong, Melton, Moonee Valley, and Wyndham.

  • VU Submission Geographic Differences

    There is thus very clear evidence for lack of participation in higher education for residents of the West. The question is heavily intermixed with the impact of related factors of low socio-economic status, few or no family members with experience of university and vocational education, and coming from a non English speaking background. For the University it is these factors that contribute most to the challenge for students from the Western Region more than factors of geography itself. However, our studies of the region do point to the lower access across the range of community services and facilities including transport, health services and recreational services which can indirectly impact on students’ capacity to make the most of their educational abilities and aspirations. The University has long argued to the Commonwealth that the challenge of education significant numbers of students with educationally restrictive characteristics should be recognised in the funding allocation. This could be through a loading targeting some of the relevant factors or a regional loading for outer metropolitan students similar to the rural and remote loading some Universities now receive. The following sections explore the Inquiry’s four key research questions from the perspective of Victoria University, its students and the Western Region of Melbourne.

    Key research question 1: Are there geographic differences? In addition to the main State data sets about ENTER ranks and application and enrolment levels VU has analysed the data for VU students who participated in the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee Australian University Student Finances 2006 study2. Generally, the student financial issues for respondents at Victoria University tend to mirror those of students nationally with the difference being that, in many cases, the difficulties for VU students are greater. In comparison with the national average, Victoria University respondents: earned less and worked longer hours, received a greater proportion of their income from government support; were more likely to apply for Austudy/Youth allowance and be rejected with VU students more likely

    to find the Austudy/Youth allowance application too complicated; had higher total expenses for part time undergraduate students; had higher median total expenditure yet income was lower; had greater study related expenditure; were less likely to pay student contributions upfront; more frequently worry about finances and more reported food and necessities unaffordable; had more difficulty affording computer related expenses (software etc.); were more influenced to study part time by finances. Additionally, most part time students at

    Victoria University would prefer to study full time if finances permitted and the percentages were greater at Victoria University than nationally; and

    who were post graduates were more likely to report that travel for conferences or research was unaffordable.

    Respondents were able to provide additional comments about the issues raised in the survey. The VU Students additional comments contained much reference to the complexity and inadequacy of government (Youth Allowance/ Austudy) and university financial assistance. The difficulties faced by students with dependents (mainly females) were also a major theme as well as balancing work and study overall.

    2 http://www.universitiesaustralia.edu.au/content.asp?page=/publications/policy/survey/index.htm

    3

    http://www.universitiesaustralia.edu.au/content.asp?page=/publications/policy/survey/index.htm

  • VU Submission Geographic Differences

    Key research question 2: Why are there such differences? VU Aspirations project

    The VU Aspirations Project is investigating the encouraging and discouraging factors that influence the post-compulsory educational aspirations of students residing in the western region of Melbourne, with a particular focus in this regional context on those students from Language-other-than-English backgrounds and low socio-economic status backgrounds. The specific aims of the project are to: gain a thorough understanding of the diverse characteristics of the regional prospective student

    population within the western metropolitan region; to understand the post-compulsory school aspirations of regional prospective students and how

    these vary according to diverse characteristics; to identify the key encouraging and discouraging factors in relation to higher education aspirations; through engagement with schools, prospective students and communities, identify and formulate

    strategies and initiatives to enhance equitable participation in Victoria University courses and programs;

    establish regional benchmarks and systems for continuous monitoring and measurement of regional participation at Victoria University;

    ensure that equity group students are aware of their educational options and enabled to access post-compulsory education; and

    attract equity group students (including Low SES), assist them in their transition to university study and increase retention and success rates for students, the University and the post-secondary sector.

    Attachment Two is a powerpoint analysis of the first stages of the project which included a large regional survey of Year 9 – 12 students in approximately 32 schools to identify the key factors that support or inhibit the decision to enter vocational and higher education and a more detailed examination through a focus group of students, regional careers teachers, and regional educational planning representatives. The initial summary of the outcomes of the first stages is that: substantially more students express an aspiration for higher education (72%) than on track data

    shows achieving higher education 40%), with conversely greater take up of TAFE and apprenticeships (21% aspire; 38% achieving);

    by the age of 25, most students would like to work as professionals, with teaching, then nursing as the most preferred careers. Males showed about twice as much interest in trades. Opinions were evenly divided about whether or not a degree

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