Parliament has today passed amendments to the Higher Education Support Act 2003, to improve support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at university.
Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, said that there had been an 85 per cent increase over the last decade in the number of Indigenous undergraduate students enrolled in university. However, retention and completion rates significantly lag behind those of other domestic students.
“Currently, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are 2.5 times more likely to drop out in their first year of university when compared to other domestic students,” Minister Scullion said.
“For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students that successfully complete higher education, there is no employment gap when compared to other Australians. In fact, the results are even better for Indigenous women with a degree who statistically have a higher employment rate than their non-Indigenous counterparts.”
Minister Scullion said the legislation would help implement the new Indigenous Student Success Program, consolidating three separate support measures into a single comprehensive programme.
“From 2017, the $253.1 million (over four years) Indigenous Student Success Programme will provide greater flexibility to help Indigenous tertiary students to succeed in their studies. Critically, it will also enable universities to provide more tailored support to suit the diverse needs of individual students,” Minister Scullion said.
“These reforms have been developed in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander academics and universities to ensure a holistic approach to supporting students. We know the focus needs to shift from enrolments, to also lifting retention and completion rates.
“We will continue to work in partnership with universities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to roll out these reforms.”
Background Information (not for attribution)
- The Indigenous Student Success in Higher Education measure announced during the 2016 Budget will commence from 1 January 2017 to improve the way universities support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to enrol in, progress through and complete their university studies.
- The measure consolidates $253.1 million in existing supplementary funding over four years from 2017 within a capped special appropriation under the Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA).
- The Indigenous Student Success in Higher Education measure combines the Commonwealth Scholarships Programme, Indigenous Support Programme and Tutorial Support Funding into a single programme under a single set of guidelines.
- Universities will be able to design their services to deliver tailored scholarships, tutorial assistance and other measures to provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with the best chance of academic success.
- Under the old model, funding arrangements targeted enrolments with low incentives for retention and completion of degrees. Universities would receive up to 70% of combined program funding on enrolments with only 30% paid on progression and completion outcomes.
- The new formula based model is weighted evenly toward enrolment, progression and completion outcomes to increase the emphasis on supporting a student’s progression through university and completion of their degree once enrolled. Under this model, universities are encouraged to better use mainstream sources of funding to facilitate the success of Indigenous students.
- Revised guidelines will strengthen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander involvement in university decision-making, requiring universities to involve Indigenous governance or advisory arrangements in decisions about the programme.
- Universities will be required to have documented strategies in place to expand their Indigenous academic workforce.
- Further information is available at https://www.dpmc.gov.au/news-centre/indigenous-affairs/2016-17-budget-indigenous-student-success-higher-education