Deakin University, the largest provider of higher education to regional Victoria, today announced a unique partnership with Australia's only regionally based bank, Bendigo Bank.
The heads of the two institutions signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing both to explore ways to build brighter futures for students and Victorian and NSW regional communities.
Deakin Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander and Bendigo's Managing Director Mike Hirst launched the initiative by announcing 40 students would be granted scholarships for three years of study.
Other initiatives being explored include:
- The creation of a university Community Bank®, from which profits would be returned to Deakin community projects which could include scholarships, research, support for clubs, or other projects.
- A scholarship fund of up to $1.3 million dollars, in partnership with local communities.
- Joint research prospects, and digital engagement/innovation opportunities, including mobile payment, crowd funding and communication initiatives with Bendigo Bank Telco.
Speaking at the signing of the MOU at Deakin's Waterfront campus in Geelong, Professor den Hollander and Mr Hirst said the university and the bank are both passionate about building sustainable communities and had identified education and finance as key components of this success.
Professor den Hollander said the partnership would open doors to higher education for regional students who face greater financial and distance barriers to study and are twice as likely as their city counterparts to experience schooling setbacks.
"Building on the Bendigo Bank's substantial community links, this partnership will help combat the tyranny of distance and make education more accessible for regional Australians," Professor den Hollander said.
"Addressing education issues facing rural Australians now and in the future is critical to the nation's economic future, with tertiary education making major differences to the lives of individuals, their families and their communities which in turn helps drive better outcomes in health, employment and welfare for the whole community.
"The challenge for regional Australia is particularly acute, as fewer students complete year 12, the proportion of 15-24-year-olds with a Certificate IV qualification or higher is much lower and far fewer students go on to university when compared with capital city students.
"Through our partnership, Deakin and Bendigo Bank will look to address these challenges head-on and with respect for the contribution regional Australia makes to the wealth of our nation."
Mr Hirst said his bank was committed to feeding into the success of young people and their communities.
"Our own tertiary scholarship fund is one of Australia's largest; we have already funded 260 students to the tune of $2.4 million and we continue to build on that," he said.
"There are obvious synergies between our bank and Deakin, including our focus on levelling the playing field for regional communities, and we believe this partnership we announce today has enormous potential."