Chapter 3 - Provision of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander–specific support to universities and students

Various funding mechanisms are used to provide specific support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Some of the support is provided directly to universities to fund programs such as scholarships and for broader Indigenous higher education participation, while other payments are made directly to students. A brief summary follows.

Funding provided directly to universities includes:

  • Away-from-Base funding for ‘mixed mode’ program delivery ($23.6 million in 2011) to support travel and accommodation costs for students in approved ‘mixed mode’ courses70
  • funding for tutorial assistance through the Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme – Tertiary Tuition (ITAS-TT) program ($8.2 million in 2011)
  • five scholarship categories (funding of $12.8 million in 2012)
  • supporting the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in higher education through the Indigenous Support Program (funding of $37.4 million in 2012).

Funding provided directly to students includes:

Other funding provided to third parties or employers include:

  • Indigenous Cadetship Support71 program funding of $8 million in 2011–12
  • Indigenous Youth Leadership Program funding of $17.2 million in 2012 (referred to earlier in the report)
  • Indigenous Youth Mobility Program72 funding of $16.2 million in 2012.

This funding to universities is on top of their base funding, some of which is used to support all students, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Base funding can and should also be used to provide specific, targeted support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

The following sections of this chapter discuss selected programs in more detail and recommend changes to them. The Panel selected these programs for reform on the basis of its consultations and submissions it received.

Overall, the feedback to the Panel from submissions and consultations was that the programs needed to strengthen their focus on student outcomes and, within this focus, there should be room for individual universities to tailor support to best meet the needs of their student cohort. In addition, universities supported the need to improve retention and completion rates, not just enrolment rates, once again noting the differing missions and strategic directions of individual universities. The Panel heard the concerns of universities regarding the ‘red tape’ and often duplicative reporting requirements applied by government across programs. While the Panel supports simplified administration and reporting requirements, this must be balanced with the need to maintain outcome-driven accountability by universities and government. Each of these issues and the feedback from submissions and consultations are discussed in more depth within the selected programs below.

On the basis of this feedback, the Panel recommends a set of principles be used to guide the reform of selected programs.

70 $23.6 million includes Away-from-Base funding provided to Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, Charles Darwin University and the University of Notre Dame for VET courses provided by these universities.

71 Indigenous Cadetship Support is aimed at improving the job prospects of Indigenous Australian students. It links full-time Indigenous students undertaking a diploma, an advanced diploma or their first undergraduate degree with employers who can give them work placements and ongoing employment once they finish their studies ( DEEWR 2011d).

72 ‘The Indigenous Youth Mobility Program (IYMP) helps young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people move away from home to gain the skills they need to get a job in their community or elsewhere. Indigenous people aged 16 to 24 from remote areas can relocate to an IYMP host location to undertake post secondary education and training options. Training options include Australian Apprenticeships, Vocational Education and Training ( VET) and Higher Education that leads to qualifications in nursing, teaching, business administration and accounting, to name but a few possibilities’ ( DEEWR 2011j).