Charles Sturt University hopes budget will deliver medical school for Orange campus

LOBBYING: Charles Sturt University professor Andrew Vann.

LOBBYING: Charles Sturt University professor Andrew Vann.

A MEDICAL school for Orange, higher student fees and funding for for-profit higher education providers - all is on the table for education in the 2014 federal budget.

Treasurer Joe Hockey will release the budget on Tuesday, May 13 and Charles Sturt University vice-chancellor Professor Andrew Vann is hopeful $45 million is set aside for a medical school. 

Prior to last year’s federal election, the National Party formally backed the university’s planned Murray Darling Medical School, to be established over the Wagga Wagga and Orange campuses and in Ballarat.

“We’re still leaning on the government and lobbying the government in relation to that.” Professor Vann said. 

“But everything we’re hearing is about the lack of money available.”

Professor Vann said the federal health department had been in “lengthy” discussions with CSU and he believed the department was aware of the “extremely good value” the medical school posed. 

Professor Vann said he was cautious about the rhetoric coming from Education Minister Christopher Pyne about proposed changes to the education sector, such as higher student fees and funding for for-profit universities. 

Mr Pyne is considering the findings in the Kemp-Norton review, which promotes demand-driven funding where any private, non-university educator could be funded. 

Professor Vann said the review highlighted a move to uncap the number of Commonwealth-funded places at public universities, allowing a focus on market demand.

In the last four years CSU’s Orange campus has grown from 894 students in 2009 to 1130 in 2013, which was representative of the demand, he said. 

He said raising student contribution fees would impact regional and rural students more than their city counterparts. 

“I’d be concerned raising the fees might put them off going to university,” he said. 

“But students seem to be OK with taking on debt because they see the advantage of having a university degree.”

He said if student fees were increased he would like to see some assistance for rural and regional students. 

nicole.kuter@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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