Student accommodation the hot topic at National Conference

The University of Wollongong has been commended at a national student housing conference today for its innovative transformation of a local hotel into student housing for university students.

In her keynote address to the 2012 National Conference of the Australasian Association of College and University Housing in Wollongong today, Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills, and Federal Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird MP, said the nine existing student residences had been under pressure as the number of students looking for accommodation rose.

“The University of Wollongong recognised that they needed to take action and in December last year, purchased the Ibis Hotel and converted it into a 150-room student accommodation,” Ms Bird said.

“The University’s willingness to think outside the square means 144 students from all over Australia and the world now call the new housing facility home.

“This is exactly the kind of innovative housing solutions that are needed to meet growing demand for affordable student accommodation.”

Ms Bird said the Gillard Government has opened up the doors of universities across the country and students have responded.

“An additional 150,000 Australian students are now taking up the opportunity of a university education,” Ms Bird said.

“To help house the additional students looking to live on campus, the Government has invested more than $33 million in student accommodation at universities since 2007.

“More than 5000 affordable accommodation places have also been provided through the National Rental Affordability Scheme.

“Student accommodation is about more than just having a place to sleep – it provides students with a peer support network, especially for those who have moved away from their families for the first time.

“It gives students the opportunity to participate in co-curricular activities that can sometimes make the difference between them completing their university education or not.

“Student accommodation is hugely important for international students. Studying internationally is not just about text books and exams, it is a chance to build friendships and connections that will last a lifetime.”

Ms Bird said the Gillard Government’s student income support reforms are helping make higher education more accessible, including for regional and low socioeconomic students.

“Our reforms mean more young people, including regional students, are now eligible for Youth Allowance and more than 281,000 students have received scholarships towards their education costs.

“The Gillard Government believes every Australian, no matter where they live or what their background, should be able to go to university if they have the ability.

“We have transformed our higher education landscape and the lives of many Australians along with it.”