Swinburne University of Technology has been awarded $2.3 million by the Victorian Government to fund a partnership that will increase access to tertiary education in regional areas, giving more students the option to study locally.  


In partnership with Mansfield Adult Continuing Education (MACE), Swinburne will use the grant to develop the U2Uni program, an online learning model that will give students in regional communities access to three-tier degrees.


According to Fiona Graham, Executive Director of Swinburne’s School for Sustainable Futures, the scheme will provide multiple pathways for students who want to undertake tertiary education while remaining in their local community.


U2Uni allows students to choose from a range of diploma study areas. From there, they can progress into an associate degree and then a bachelor degree, receiving credit for the study they have already completed.”


“The online program will also include a tertiary transition skills course. This will ensure students are supported and well equipped to succeed in their studies,” she said.


According to MACE Chief Executive Officer Paul Sladdin, young people in regional Victoria have fallen behind their metropolitan counterparts in a number of key areas, including enrolment at university.  In 2010 the university participation rate for school leavers in the Hume Region was 25 per cent against a state average of 41 per cent.


“With the facilitated online learning component of the U2Uni project students can enrol and study here in Mansfield or wherever they live in the region,” he said.  


The project aims to engage 60 learners into a higher education qualification in 2012, with a further 80 in 2013.


The grant has been awarded under the Regional Partnerships Facilitation Fund (RPFF), a $20 million competitive grant fund established by the Victorian Government to support increased alliances between higher education institutions and Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers.