Access and Participation

For: 

The department is working to ensure that all people with the desire and capability to attend university have the opportunity to do so, and succeed in their studies, regardless of their background.

The department administers several programs and initiatives to support student access and participation in higher education in Australia.

Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP)

The Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) aims to ensure that Australians from low SES backgrounds who have the ability to study at university have the opportunity to do so. It provides funding to assist universities listed in Table A of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to undertake activities and implement strategies that improve access to undergraduate courses for people from low SES backgrounds, as well as improving the retention and completion rates of those students.

Regional Education Package

On 12 November 2018, the Government announced $134.8 million over four years to provide students from rural and regional Australia with greater choice in, and access to higher education. The measures include:

  • $92.5 million over four years to support more students at five regionally focused universities over four years. This includes:
    • $40.7 million for Federation University Australia's Berwick campus (VIC)
    • $30.2 million for the Caboolture and Fraser Coast campuses of the University of the Sunshine Coast (QLD)
    • $3.3 million for the Central Coast Medical School and Research Institute of the University of Newcastle (NSW)
    • $9.1 million for Central Queensland University (QLD), and
    • $9.1 million for James Cook University (QLD). 
  • $34.1 million over four years to expand the Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships
  • $7.5 million over four years to expand the Regional Study Hubs, and
  • developing a national regional, rural and remote education strategy.

Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships (RRES) program

On 12 November 2018, the Government announced it would expand the Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships (RRES) program, investing an additional $34.1 million to support a further 1,955 Scholarships. The total $58.1 million investment would mean that the RRES program will be able to increase the total number of scholarships from 1,200 to 3,155.

The scholarships provide up to $18,000 to support regional, rural and remote students to study any course at Certificate IV to PhD level, including full-time, part-time and online study from six months full-time to the maximum of four years full-time study (or the part-time equivalent). Scholarship recipients may also receive $500 to support an internship during their studies.

Round four (4) opened on 20 January 2020 with 1100 scholarships available for students commencing study any time in 2020. Applications are currently open on a rolling basis for the 2020 academic calendar year, or until the scholarships have been fully allocated.

The Australian Government implemented the Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships to improve educational opportunities and attainment for regional and remote students by supporting undergraduate, postgraduate and vocational education and training.

Regional University Centres (formerly known as Regional Study Hubs)

Regional University Centres (formerly known as Regional Study Hubs) provide infrastructure such as study spaces, video conferencing, computing facilities and internet access, as well as academic support and pastoral care for students studying via distance at partner universities.

On 12 November 2018, the Australian Government committed $24.2 million over four years to establish 16 community-owned, Regional University Centres in rural, regional and remote Australia. On 29 April 2019, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, Minister for Education, announced further funding of $15 million to establish an additional five Regional University Centres – including one in Wangaratta – as part of the Australian Government’s Plan for Regional Australia.

Information on how to apply is available on the 2019 Regional University Centres page

Information on the current Regional University Centres

National Regional, Rural and Remote Education Strategy

As part of its $135 million regional education package in November 2018, the Government announced the development of a National Regional, Rural and Remote Education Strategy. The Government appointed a Regional Education Expert Advisory Group, chaired by the Hon Dr Denis Napthine, to undertake this work.

This work responds to the 2017 Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education (Halsey Review) – specifically Recommendation 11 – that the Government “establish a national focus for regional, rural and remote education, training and research to enhance access, outcomes and opportunities in regional Australia”.

The Expert Advisory Group undertook extensive consultation across the country, and delivered the National Regional, Rural and Remote Tertiary Education Strategy final report (Napthine Review) to Government in June 2019.

The Napthine Review focuses on identifying ways to improve tertiary education outcomes in regional, rural and remote areas and makes seven recommendations and proposes 33 individual key actions aimed at improving regional and remote tertiary education outcomes. The recommendations cover:

  • improving access to study options
  • improving financial and other supports, including for equity groups
  • building aspirations, providing better career advice and strengthening schools
  • developing regional communities including through strengthening the role of tertiary providers in regional Australia.

The Napthine Review was publicly released on 28 August 2019. The Government has accepted the aims of the recommendations and will respond in due course.

Higher Education Disability Support Program

The Disability Support Program provides funding to universities to undertake activities that assist in removing barriers to access and participation in higher education for students with disabilities.

The program was evaluated in 2014-15 by KPMG. The evaluation findings are supportive of the program and make suggestions for its ongoing operation. The Australian Government is currently considering its response to the report.

The program assists in providing educational support and/or equipment to domestic students with disability with high cost needs. Funding is also provided to encourage providers to implement strategies to attract and support students with disabilities.

The DSP provides funding for the Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET) website. The site provides information and other resources designed to promote inclusive teaching and learning practices for people with disability.

National Disability Coordination Officer Program

The National Disability Coordination Officer (NDCO) Program supports a network of regionally based officers to work strategically to assist people with disability access and participate in tertiary education and subsequent employment.

As part of a national network, NDCOs work at the local level to assist working age people aged between 15-64 with a disability who may wish to succeed in post school education, training and employment. NDCOs do this by working with education professionals, employers, the community and others to:

  • facilitate smooth transitions from school, to tertiary education and employment
  • address systemic barriers and gaps in support for people with disabilities in accessing and participating in tertiary education and employment
  • enhance inclusive practices and increase accessibility in tertiary education and employment for people with disabilities
  • increase awareness of people with disability about their post-school options and supports so they can participate in education and subsequent employment to the same extent as people without disabilities.

The National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education

The National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) is funded by the department and hosted by Curtin University. NCSEHE's purpose is to inform public policy design and implementation, and institutional practice, in order to improve higher education participation and success for marginalised and disadvantaged people.

For more information go to the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education website.