For years, the young, ambitious minds of regional NSW have felt compelled to venture afar in search of a university education.
This migration often came at the expense of deep-rooted ties with home, community and the unique rural lifestyle that has shaped them.
Today, thanks to the Country Universities Centres across regional NSW, our rural students no longer need to choose between a tertiary education and the regions.
Australia's education landscape is witnessing a remarkable transformation, led by a renewed interest in regional universities.
For decades, urban universities have often overshadowed their regional counterparts.
Yet, in a post-pandemic world where population dynamics and priorities are rapidly changing, regional universities are emerging as formidable pillars of opportunity and regional development.
The incredible success story of the Country Universities Centre in Broken Hill, for example, is a testament to the untapped potential regional universities hold.
In Broken Hill, the CUC's impact is obvious.
Its achievement in retaining 95 per cent of its graduates within the local community underscores the pull and practical benefits of regional education.
Since 2018, student enrolment has swelled from an initial quota of 90 to an average of 150-180 each semester.
Importantly, half of these students are the first generation of their families to have undertaken tertiary education.
Their choice to stay close to home is not just a personal win, but a boost for the region.
Around 95pc of the 2022 CUC graduates remain in Broken Hill. That strengthens local industries - particularly the often understaffed sectors of health, education, and social sciences.
Further south, La Trobe University's Shepparton campus illustrates a similar story of success.
La Trobe University chancellor John Brumby has observed the increasing preference of students to study in regional settings.
This shift, accelerated by the pandemic's population decentralisation, underscores the appeal of regional campuses.
With over 110 students graduating from this campus alone, amidst pandemic-driven challenges, the resilience and resourcefulness of regional campuses shines through.
Their unique integration with local economies, the skills and degrees they offer and their potential to contribute to the region's growth are compelling reasons for students to opt for a regional education.
Regional universities create regional jobs.
These institutions foster local talent, provide skills tailored to regional needs and nurture professionals who are deeply rooted in the community.
The future of these universities remains promising if we acknowledge their significance and work collectively towards their success.
In championing the rise of regional universities, we're not just advocating for diverse educational avenues. We're fostering a holistic approach to tertiary education.
One that values local talent, addresses specific needs of communities and, above all, keeps the future of Australia in the regions.
As we move forward, it's essential that we continue to invest, support, and elevate these pivotal institutions.
Our rural communities deserve nothing less.
- By Senator Perin Davey, deputy leader of The Nationals