UA is the peak body representing Australia’s 39 comprehensive universities. Our member universities span the length and breadth of Australia. Together, they educate around one and a half million students each year, undertake significant research and development activities, and engage globally to grow Australia and the world’s knowledge base while supporting our nation’s economic and social wellbeing.
Suburban university study hubs (suburban study hubs) extend the opportunity for outer-metropolitan and non-traditional students to attain a higher education while continuing to reside in areas that are beyond the geographical limits of universities. When designed according to a principles-based approach and in partnership between local communities and governments, created by and for the people of those communities, suburban study hubs have the potential to improve access to university. This approach also has the potential to support improved outcomes for various traditional and non-traditional students whilst helping to meet the government’s equity targets. In meeting this aspiration, it’s important the suburban study hubs are designed with clear goals and are not overly expansive in their remit, lest they drift from their primary goal of improving access to higher education.
Rather than developing a one-size-fits-all model where a suburban study hub template is imposed on a community, UA recommends the creation of a principles-based framework and a community-driven process for developing responsive suburban study hubs for the community needs and aspirations of a specific place. This could:
- be driven through a local community group or local government-identified need and vetting process
- be facilitated via a state government selection process, and
- be endorsed by the federal government through a competitive grants process.
This process recognises the fundamental community-centred purpose of suburban study hubs.
Ultimately, to ensure the efficacy and responsiveness of the suburban study hubs program while responding to local and regional needs, a principles-based approach will be essential to guide development. A framework with a set of principles, such as community integration, accessibility and inclusivity, support for online learning, complementing existing initiatives, and developing facilitative partnerships will guide these processes to develop hubs that attract participants, support them to succeed, and address place-based needs. UA recommends this approach be socialised ahead of any implementation of the suburban study hubs program, with specific benchmarks set to adequately evaluate the success of the suburban study hubs program with the intent to review it after an appropriate and specified amount of time.
UA makes the following recommendations for developing the new Suburban University Study Hub program:
- Establish a set of principles that enable community-driven development and ensure responsiveness to local needs.
- Develop a ground-up and community-driven process where communities engage with all levels of government alongside other stakeholders to better meet the community’s aspirations for higher education participation and to respond to local workforce needs.
- Include funding for infrastructure that allows for participation in the program by less-resourced communities that still have high need and strong community investment for a study hub.
- Define a clear scope and delineation between remit of education providers and new hubs early in the development process of each hub.