Regional University Centres

Regional University Centres (RUC) program takes an innovative approach to helping students access and complete tertiary education without leaving their communities.


Project snapshot


Adelaide Hills & Fleurieu

Project contact

Steve Shotton
Director of Regional Development

Alignment with RDA strategy

  • Population growth
  • Skills
  • Regional Jobs
  • Economic development

Developing a business case for local RUCs

With limited access to university campuses in Adelaide, and very limited regional face-to-face support options for higher education in our region, the Regional University Centres (RUC) program takes an innovative approach to helping students access and complete tertiary education without leaving their communities.

The population of the Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island region is growing fast, however access to higher education is limited, resulting in tertiary education attainment levels below the state average.

Which is why supporting educational opportunities for regional and remote students to develop a locally skilled workforce, retain young people in our communities, and drive vibrant local economies, is a critical priority for RDA AHFKI.   

Administered by the federal Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE), the Regional University Centres program takes an innovative approach to improve access to tertiary education for regional and remote students.

What is a Regional University Centre (RUC)?

A Regional University Centre is a community facility that provides regional students an opportunity to pursue tertiary courses locally. Students can access distance education from any Australian institution using the centre’s infrastructure and support services for the duration of their study, which may include: 

  • Infrastructure:
    • Study spaces
    • Break out areas
    • Video conferencing
    • Computer facilities
    • High-speed internet access
  • Administrative and academic support services:
    • Developing writing and research skills
    • Managing administrative processes
  • Student support services:
    • Pastoral support
    • Study advice
    • Help accessing student services

The aim of the RUC Program is to complement, rather than replace, existing and planned university investments in regional areas, such as satellite campuses and study centres, to help:

  • bridge the gap in support for study in regional, rural, or remote areas;
  • support students who want to stay in their communities while pursuing their studies;
  • enhance the overall learning experience for students studying within their communities;
  • foster strong links between RUCs, other local organizations, support services, and industries.

How RUCs make a difference

Regional University Centres have proven to be successful in various regions across Australia. These Centres have witnessed significant positive outcomes, such as attracting students who may not have considered pursuing a university course otherwise. Many of these students are “first in family” to enrol in university journey, highlighting the program’s impact on breaking barriers to higher education. Notably, student retention rates are considerably higher compared to online-only or city campus study options.

Local industries also benefit from Regional University Centres, as they benefit from “growing their own” workforce within the region, meaning staff stay longer and are more committed to the local community.  Additionally, students using the Centres are often upskilling to advance their careers, or are enthusiastic school leavers with a passion for tertiary education.

The long-term sustainability of Regional University Centres relies on the full support of local communities to motivate and encourage people to apply, and otherwise support the Centres in whatever way they can.

RDA AHFKI’s role in supporting local RUCs

In 2021, RDA AHFKI prepared business cases for a Regional University Centre at both Victor Harbor and Mount Barker, with support from our region’s councils, and ISC Consulting Group. The business cases covered:

  • Assessment of demand
  • Operating model
  • Site selection
  • Governance model
  • Financial budgets
  • Stakeholder support

Extensive consultation was undertaken with a range of stakeholders, including:

  • Local business association members
  • SA Health staff
  • Local government staff
  • Local high school students
  • High School Principals

Both business cases demonstrated a successful model for establishment and operation of Regional University Centres under the DESE RUC Program.

The aim was for these tertiary education facilities to be community owned and driven, to connect the local community with educational opportunities. The strategic objectives of the RUCs in our region were identified as;

  1. Increasing per capita rates of tertiary education
  2. Growing (retaining) the number of young people in the community
  3. Supporting growth of a competitive, vibrant and resilient economy and community

RDA AHFKI submitted funding applications for these centres, valued at $2.7m, in a competitive funding round in early 2022. Unfortunately, neither proposed centre was funded.

We remain vigilant for new funding opportunities to make the centres a reality for the region.

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