New data from the 2021 census has revealed that Country Universities Centres (CUCs) are leading the way in university student growth across regional NSW.

Over the past five years, university student numbers in NSW towns with CUCs grew by 24.7% compared with an average 5.4% for all non-metropolitan areas.

Snowy Hydro co-founded the very first CUC in Cooma in 2013 and remains an integral supporter of the higher education centre by jointly funding it together with Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

The CUC initiative enables regional and rural university students to study close to home in a campus-like environment with learning facilities, technology including access to computers, wifi, printers, video conferencing and support staff.

Snowy Hydro Acting CEO Roger Whitby said the long-running Cooma CUC partnership continues to be highly successful.

“CUCs are helping to stop the brain drain – they allow regional students to stay in their communities, have access to tertiary education in a supportive environment and ultimately provide local employers, including Snowy Hydro, with qualified workers,” Mr Whitby said.

“Typically there is a high drop-out rate with people studying online courses because they can feel isolated, so the CUC offers real benefits.”

Cooma has seen a university student increase of 64% over the last two census periods (2011-2021), compared with an average 17.5% for non-metro NSW. 

Following the success of the Cooma CUC pilot, a further five centres opened in Broken Hill, Goulburn, Grafton, Griffith/Leeton and Narrabri/Moree in 2018-19.

The network of centres has since grown to 20 regional communities across NSW, Queensland and Victoria with the additional support of the NSW Government and the Australian Government’s Department of Education, Skills and Employment through the Regional University Centres program.

Find out more about Snowy Hydro’s partnership with Country Universities Centre:

Students studying at university by locality

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021 Census data 

CUC locations and year of openingIncrease 2011-2021Increase 2016-2021
Cooma (2013)* 64.1% 
Broken Hill (2018)22.8%
Goulburn (2018) 18.4%
Grafton (2019)32.3%
Griffith and Leeton (2019)33.8%
Narrabri and Moree (2019) 16.0%
CUC centre average increase24.7%
NSW university students – non-metro17.5%5.4%

*Only the Cooma CUC was operating during the 2016 Census.