Rural students studying at different universities are improving their grades as a result of getting access to great facilities in their home towns, thanks to the Country Universities Centre.

Story Ken Eastwood

In Broken Hill, an old RSL building has been converted into a student study centre for locals enrolled in any tertiary institution. Equipped with free high-speed wifi, computers, scanners, printers, a tutorial room, kitchen and a helpful manager, the centre opened in April and is being used by more than 100 students from 40 institutions. 

“One of our students just got an academic excellence award, and she attributes that success to this facility,” says Country Universities Centre (CUC) Far West manager Danielle Keenan. “She’s a mother who has her own business and twin boys and she couldn’t find anywhere quiet to study. Another student has gone from a fail to a high distinction. We did an exit survey at the end of semester one and 98 percent of the respondents said that the CUC facility improved their results.”

The Broken Hill centre is the third CUC facility in New South Wales, with more planned to open early in 2019 in Moree, Narrabri and Grafton. The first CUC facility was opened in Cooma five years ago, after Monaro grazier Duncan Taylor had been chatting with the Cooma mayor and the CEO of Snowy Hydro about the lack of higher education facilities in the town and the fact that higher education take-up rates for youth in regional and remote Australia are half those in urban areas. “We tried to attract a university campus to Cooma, but we just found the population [about 7000] was too small,” Duncan says. 

So they developed the idea for a non-profit centre that all tertiary students could access, and CUC Snowy Monaro was born, with Duncan as CEO. As in the Broken Hill and Goulburn facilities, students can access the centre from 7am to midnight seven days a week, and a manager is there from 9–5, Monday to Friday, to help them with enrolments, access resources and provide other support.

“Over five years, CUC in Cooma has supported 228 students doing 90 different degrees at 32 different universities,” Duncan says. “CQ University did a study on the centre. It found in respect of its own students that they are well surpassing the normal online student success rates, and achieving results that are comparable or even exceeding those students who are face-to-face on campus.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #122

Outback Magazine: December/January 2019