Many rural communities around Australia have suffered from a brain drain during recent decades. However, in a strange twist of fate, students who live at great distances from tertiary institutions are often the ones who can benefit the most.
Twenty percent of regional Australians are choosing to upgrade qualifications, or commence a career, by staying in their local area while studying. Enrolment in online study has grown by over 40 percent during recent years, with uptake in the Northern Territory and NSW leading the change.
Rural students choosing diverse study options
In a surprise finding, many regional students aren’t choosing farming and horticultural studies – the fastest growing student choice is presently the Bachelor of Criminology. Paul Wappett, the CEO of Open Universities Australia, believes the figures bode well for communities Australia-wide.
“Online learning keeps people in their local area, continuing to make a real contribution to their community while also building a future for themselves,” Mr Wappett said.
The hometown option
Previous research has shown that most students don’t return home to stay at the conclusion of university or TAFE studies. Fortunately, distance education in Australia has changed in every way since the advent of online learning, and rural youth now have the option to remain in their hometown while studying.
In the five-year period between 2009 and 2013 agricultural studies was down the list of priorities for regional Australian students. The most popular online course choices included:
Almost half of all Open Universities Australia students reside outside the influence of state capitals and major population centres. Regardless of location, subject choices remain in line with Government expectations, and there is every reason to believe the internet is breathing new life into the old tradition of staying on the farm.