How UNSW is meeting the needs of regional Australia

From promoting rural medical education and researching renewable energy to inspiring country students into higher education, UNSW is committed to making a difference to regional Australia.


Photo: Amy Coopes

Whether it’s promoting rural medical education, researching renewable energy and water management, improving the lives and incomes of farmers, or inspiring country students into higher education, UNSW is committed to making a difference to regional Australia.

Each year, more than 2,900 regional and remote students are enrolled at UNSW, with retention rates above 85%. Our graduates also give back to regional communities: there are more than 53,000 UNSW alumni, including doctors, engineers, teachers and other professionals, living and working in regional Australia.

Earlier this year, UNSW hosted a delegation of 16 policy makers from the National Party, which represents a sizeable proportion of regional constituents.

“This was an opportunity to highlight the impact and level of engagement we already have in regional and rural Australia,” says UNSW development manager Nic McKay. “As a Sydney-based institution, it’s important to demonstrate that our work benefits all Australians.”

Improving rural health outcomes

One of UNSW’s greatest impacts to regional communities is around healthcare. Our world-leading medical school has five regional campuses: in Port Macquarie, Wagga Wagga, Griffith, Coffs Harbour and Albury-Wodonga. 

As part of their degree, UNSW non-international medical students must complete a four-week clinical placement in a rural area. They can also choose to complete the last four years of their medical degree at a regional campus.

From 2017, UNSW is offering the state’s first rurally located medical degree program for the entire six years at Port Macquarie. As well as providing excellence in teaching, this will be a valuable rural research centre providing leadership in addressing rural health issues.  

Our medical research in areas such as mental health, drug harm prevention, and infectious and chronic diseases continues to enhance the quality of medical education and the healthcare services offered in regional and rural areas across Australia.

Our research is also helping to improve the lives and incomes of farmers. Our engineers and scientists have developed autonomous tractors and farm equipment, are exploring ways to create value from agricultural waste, and have made an important contribution to biosecurity by decoding the genome of the Queensland fruit fly – one of Australia’s worst agricultural pests.

For the past four decades we’ve led the world in developing solar voltaic cells which efficiently convert sunlight into electricity, and we are working across challenges related to water in Australia, developing ways to better manage water scarcities and prevent contamination.

Helping regional students access higher education

UNSW has a range of successful programs aimed at improving access to higher education for students in regional and rural Australia. One of those is the ASPIRE program – an educational outreach program that works with students across NSW to enable greater access to tertiary studies.

The UNSW Indigenous Winter School welcomes 100 to 150 secondary students from across Australia, including remote rural communities. The program is designed to encourage Indigenous students in Years 10, 11 and 12 to consider further studies beyond high school.

Learn more about UNSW’s programs for rural and regional students.