Allan Reinikka

Labor targets uni students struggling to finish studies

FEDERAL Labor has announced a multi-billion higher education policy that will focus on teaching, completion rates and a shift away from deregulation.

The policy will set an ambitious goal to increase the number of students completing their study by 20,000 graduates a year from 2020.

It also includes a new student funding arrangement that Labor claims would equate to an extra $2500 a student a year from 2018.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said on Monday he wanted higher education reforms to be an election issue.

He said higher education was an essential source of economic growth.

"My vision is for an Australia competing and winning in the world on our terms: as a smart, innovative and creative country, exporting our knowledge and our services - such as international education - to the world's largest consumer class," he said.

"A wealth-creating, competitive, productive Australia where everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential, regardless of their parents' income."

Opposition higher education spokesman Senator Kim Carr said Labor would invest in students to ensure they graduated with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.

He said the national focus must shift from enrolment to completion.

"Recent figures show that more students are leaving university with a debt but no degree," he said.

"We want Australian students that start university, to finish university with a high quality degree.

"These graduates will not just fill the jobs of the future; they will help create them as our economy transitions.

Regional Universities Network chair Professor Jan Thomas said additional funding and commitment to increasing the participation and completions at university would assist regional universities and their communities.

"Better pathways and preparation for students before they embark on bachelors degrees are important in boosting university degree completions," she said.

"As well as increased funding per student, the ALP has proposed a new higher education access and growth strategy to lift equity and improve student outcomes which will assist regional universities and their communities."