CANBERRA, March 1 (Xinhua) -- Australian universities have for the first time agreed to set quota targets for admitting Indigenous students into tertiary education in an effort to "close the gap" of Indigenous disadvantage.
The strategy, agreed to by the nation's tertiary education committee, Universities Australia, includes goals to ensure Indigenous Australians are enrolling in university degrees at a rate 50 percent higher than non-Indigenous Australians, to achieve equal retention rates (reduce dropouts) by 2025, and to achieve equal degree completion rates by 2028.
Universities Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson said lifting retention and degree completion rates would be a challenge that universities around the country are willing to grapple with.
"We've seen really good growth rates. But we do see Indigenous students dropping out at a much greater rate than non-Indigenous students," Robinson told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Wednesday.
Meanwhile the dean of Aboriginal engagement at the University of South Australia, Peter Buckskin, said the strategy had been discussed among leading Australian universities for some time, and laying out the strategy for all to see was the next crucial step.
"We think (Australian universities) are now on a trajectory of getting this right," Buckskin told the ABC.
"I think higher education is not an easy space to work in when you're small in numbers."
"We've got to ensure that Australian universities see Aboriginal cultures and perspectives as really important core business of the university."
According to statistics, Indigenous Australians currently make up 1.6 percent of all Australian university enrollments despite making up 2.7 percent of the "working age" population.