Federation University Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Bartlett is the new Regional Universities Network chair.
Federation University Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Bartlett is the new Regional Universities Network chair.

Regional uni lobby names boss ahead of election

ONLY months away from an expected federal election, Australia's top regional university body has a new chair.

Professor Helen Bartlett took over as the Regional Universities Network chair on Thursday, replacing University of the Sunshine Coast's Greg Hill.

The network represents six universities based outside capital cities and works to promote education in regional Australia.

Professor Bartlett, the Federation University Vice-Chancellor, said she was passionate about building strong regional economies and giving students the chance to study and work in their home towns.

"Over the past eight years, RUN has been able to help governments better understand this important role and how regional universities contribute to both the higher education sector and the communities in which they exist,” she said. 

"With a federal election looming, this year promises to be an exciting period for higher education and RUN will continue to be an active player in policy development and funding discussions. 

"We will be out there promoting the value of the sector, increasing opportunities for students of all ages and helping our regional communities thrive.” 

Professor Hill's two-year term included fights over government funding for regional institutions.

"The release of the 2017-18 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook saw a disproportionate negative impact on regional universities with a two-year freeze on Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding,” he said. 

He said while there have been positive developments since then, significant work was needed to help regional education.

"There are still significant barriers to regional, low socio-economic status, indigenous and first in family Australians attending university,” he said.

"We have a lot of work to do as a network and with government to reduce educational inequality between regional and metropolitan Australia.” 

The University of the Sunshine Coast, University of Southern Queensland, Southern Cross University, University of New England, CQUniversity and Federation University are all RUN members. -NewsRegional