Regional education: We must make sure every Australian gets a fair go

Where you start in life shouldn't determine where you finish. Just because you live outside of a capital city doesn't mean you get second-best opportunities.

That's why I'm proud to be part of a government that has already provided an additional $400 million to support rural, region and remote Australians access to higher education.

This week, the Prime Minister announced a package to strengthen Australia's migration program which included two measures to boost regional higher education.

We will establish the Destination Australia Program and give $15,000 scholarships to 4720 domestic and international students over four years to study in regional Australia.

We will also give international students studying in regional universities access to an additional year on a post-study work visa.

Regional universities have a great story to tell - including a lower cost of living, smaller class sizes, and a different experience of Australia.

International students who study in regional Australia rate their living and learning experience higher than students based in metropolitan centres.

Encouraging more students to regional Australia will create more jobs and business opportunities, drive more tourism and promote cultural diversity in local communities.

The Regional Universities Network reports that its member institutions already make a $1.7 billion contribution to their local economies.

Imagine the additional contribution higher education will make to regional economies when we distribute more evenly the dividends from our $34 billion international education sector.

Last year, 690,000 international students studied in Australia. Yet just 26,000, or 3 per cent, were enrolled in regional Australia.

Encouraging more students to study in regional Australia will also invigorate our communities.

About seven out of 10 graduates of the Regional Universities Network go on to work in a regional area.

That means doctors, nurses and teachers who have studied in regional Australia choosing to live in regional Australia.

Having more university graduates living in regional Australia will inspire more regional kids to get a higher education.

This is important because there are nearly twice as many young Australians living in a major city with a bachelor degree or higher qualification than in the regions. We must close that gap.

If you're young and living in rural, regional and remote Australia you should aspire to be whatever you want to be, and that can mean doing a trade, starting a business or going to university.

Our government supports regional education, regional students and regional communities because we believe every Australian should get a fair go.

​Dan Tehan is federal education minister