THE growth of popular teaching programs that help mature age people get into university study is under threat at the University of Newcastle.
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The federal education department wrote to the university last month to advise under a new policy it was capping the number of government-funded places in the university’s enabling program to 1505.

It’s a surprise move given the federal government’s policy of getting more people into university study, in particular the disadvantaged and those from rural and regional areas.

The University of Newcastle is the largest provider of enabling programs in the country, which has helped it to have high numbers of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

They have three enabling and two diploma programs to help get school-leavers and older people into degrees.

Enabling programs are a kind of bridging course and include Open Foundation, Newstep or Yapug, which prepare people for university over the course of a year and give them a credential to apply for a degree.

The university estimated that under a cap it would have a shortfall of 51 places next year and 87 in 2013.

A report to the university council said Newcastle would be ‘‘significantly affected’’ by the move to capped places and any reduction would negatively affect its ability to meet undergraduate student growth targets.

‘‘The demographic profile of our region is such that an increased capacity in enabling education is essential to improving access and participation rates,’’ it noted.

More than one-quarter of people who complete a government-funded enabling course in Australia do so at the university’s English Language and Foundation Studies Centre.

Vice-Chancellor Caroline McMillen said they had approached the department and expressed their concern.