Teaching mission remains the same: CSU won't gouge regional students

ASSURANCES: Heather Robinson

ASSURANCES: Heather Robinson

CHARLES Sturt University head of Orange campus Heather Robinson says regional students won’t be ostracised by any potential increases to course fee structures as a result of the federal government’s budget reforms.

Fairfax Media this week revealed university leaders fear up to 160,000 school leavers could be forced to select courses without knowing whether they will pay tens of thousands of dollars more in fees.

But, in a bid to ensure rural school leavers don’t encounter the same hesitation, Mrs Robinson said there wasn’t any point in attempting to predict what courses, if any, will potentially be stung by the new budget scheme.

“Certainly being a regional university like Charles Sturt, our mission is to provide education opportunities for regional students,” she said.

“Regional students as a whole are price sensitive, and take cost into account more than the metropolitan students. They’re more cost sensitive, and we’ll have to take that into account if the reforms are passed.”

Mrs Robinson said the courses with the highest enrolments at CSU Orange were dentistry, physiotherapy, pharmacy and agriculture business management degrees.

The university also provides a number of courses via distance.

She added nursing and a range of agriculture-based courses were highly enrolled in by distance for the 2014 year.

The base cost for all courses at CSU’s Orange campus varies greatly, with nursing degrees starting at $18,000 and dentistry hitting $50,500.

Some of the highest predicted course hikes revolve around dentistry and medicine, and given dentistry’s popularity in Orange and the benefit rural communities enjoy from having specialised courses run in the region, Mrs Robinson was wary to suggest of any changes at CSU Orange.

“We’d certainly have to look at what we did in that situation,” she said, with the university’s dentistry program beginning in 2009, and of the 2013 graduate class of 32, half already work in country communities.

“We’d have to look at the need. I suppose the issue is the change won’t come into play if at all until 2016, so any current student will proceed under the existing arrangement.”

Opting not to weigh in on the classroom brawl and following server student protest rallies in Sydney, Charles Sturt University student representative council declined to comment on the matter.

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