Allan Reinikka

Competition tough for rural health scholarships

THE number of rural students looking to study health at university has outstripped supply for rural health scholarships four-fold this year, a key allied health group says.

More than 660 prospective students from regional Australia hoping to study degrees ranging from social work to physiotherapy applied for just 162 available scholarships this year.

The SARRAH scholarships (Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health) offer students up to $10,000 to help meet travel, accommodation and study costs to start degrees next year.

While the huge demand for scholarships showed the rising interest of young rural Australians in health work, SARRAH chief executive Rod Wellington said more funds were needed to meet demand.

He said rural students often faced bigger barriers to study, including travel costs and living expenses, because they "cannot study near home".

But Mr Wellington said scholarships were essential to help meet the demand for allied health workers in rural Australia, because students with rural backgrounds were more likely to return to work in the bush after finishing their studies.

While about 30% of people living in major cities hold bachelor degrees, less than 20% of people in inner regional, outer regional and remote areas have degrees, according to Australian Council for Educational Research figures.

But Mr Wellington said the demand was high, so SARRAH was still pushing for more funding.

The news comes as a federal Cabinet reshuffle means two women now lead health policy, with Sussan Ley promoted to Health Minister and Senator Fiona Nash maintained as Assistant Minister.

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