In Gympie Llew O'Brien and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.
In Gympie Llew O'Brien and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. Renee Albrecht

What Govt's uni funding freeze means for Gympie USC campus

FEDERAL Member for Wide Bay, Llew O'Brien has called on the Australian Government to lift the freeze on federally funded places at the Fraser Coast campus of the University of the Sunshine Coast.

The freeze to the Commonwealth Grant Scheme was announced in the Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook in December 2018 and took effect from 1 January 2018.

Mr O'Brien said he had been assured it would have no impact on the Gympie USC campus. But head a little further north and it's a different story.

"While I understand the reason for the freeze is to ensure the sustainability of the university education system, it has also had unintended consequences which will result in the cutting of nursing places at the Fraser Coast campus,” he said.

"In the time since the freeze was announced I've been meeting with the Vice Chancellor of USC, Professor Greg Hill, and communicating USC's concerns about the impact of the freeze on the University to the Government.

"The freeze has had the real effect of cutting funding to USC which is going to result in a cut to the number of nursing degree places it will offer at Hervey Bay in the next semester, beginning in July.

"It's important that we train more nurses, not less, and it's also important that they are trained locally, to care for our aging population.

"The recent budget included a $5 billion boost to aged care, confirming an extra 20,000 home care places and an extra 13,500 residential care places. This alone will support a strong demand for more and more nurses.” 

Mr O'Brien said nursing is a great career path, giving people a degree they can bank on that will also help to tackle the Wide Bay region's high unemployment rate.

"According to the 2016 Census, the number of people with a bachelor degree in Wide Bay is 9% whereas the national average is 22. We need to ensure there are nursing degree places available for those who want to study, and that Government policy settings do not restrict the number of places for a degree in an area which is of increasing importance to Wide Bay.

"We need to grow the number of nursing places to train a local workforce to increase employment opportunities and cater for the needs that come with of our ageing demographic.

"We need policies that keep our students in the region, not force them to leave the area and study at other institutions, so in this regard I would also like the Government to support enabling programs at the Fraser Coast campus to help those who want to study a degree prepare for university.”