THE Federal Government has quietly decided to freeze university funding for regional nursing and other students.
In a decision made without consultation or a Senate vote, the Turnbull Government recently froze funding for university placements and effectively put an end to the career aspirations of regional students nation-wide.
Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union (QNMU) Acting Secretary Sandra Eales said the decision to freeze funding for university placements would affect all prospective students – particularly those living outside the city.
Ms Eales said under the two-year freeze, smaller universities in regional areas would be less likely to absorb the cost of funding new placements. She said as a result, the career aspirations of regional students including future nurses would suffer greatly as a result.
She said the decision could create a shortage of nurses in regional Australia and impact the long-term health and wellbeing of entire towns.
"This decision makes it impossible for student nurses to train, learn or provide future care for the regional communities where they live,'' Ms Eales said.
"There is no doubt this freeze, decided silently in the comfort of Canberra, will directly and adversely impact the hopes, dreams and future of young people and communities throughout regional Australia.''
Students who study nursing in regional Queensland often go on to work in their communities. The decision to freeze funding for 2018 and 2019 university placements at 2017 levels, could force many prospective nurses and other students to abandon their career plans. The decision was made public on December 18.
On December 19, the ABC quoted Universities Australia acting Chief Catriona Jackson as stating:
"Let's be absolutely clear a freeze is a cut, and this is $2.2 billion worth of cuts to universities.
"They are freezing funding for student places. If they are not funding a place it is very, very, very difficult for a university to offer a place, this is the way it's always been.
"This is a freeze on places, so if universities want to expand numbers — and a number of regional universities do want to because they're in an area of growing need for university degrees — then they will not be able to do that next year." http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-18/myefo-university-help-funding-frozen-and-caps-introduced/9268326
Central Queensland University (CQU) Vice-Chancellor Scott Bowman said without Federal funding, student fees would not even cover the cost of student nurse hospital placements.
"We're gobsmacked,'' he said.
"The Government has talked about improving higher education in regional Australia and they've just put a steamroller through it all.
"Even if the communities we serve need nurses, we won't be able to train them because the student fees won't even cover the costs of clinical education that we have to pay hospitals."
Ms Eales said the Federal Government's decision was unkind and dangerous – and indicated the career aspirations of regional students were less valid or valuable than those in metropolitan areas.
"Regional students in Yeppoon deserve the same opportunities as those in Sydney's Point Piper, where Malcom Turnbull lives,'' Ms Eales said.
"I believe segregating students' access to education dependant on where they live is grounds for serious debate and reversal of this decision.''