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Thursday, 10 May 1984
Page: 1996


Senator PETER RAE(7.11) —I shall be relatively brief on a matter which I hope can be processed to an early result. This matter concerns the tertiary education assistance scheme allowance and combined degrees. The Australian National University-I am a Senate representative on the University Council-has expressed concern, as have some other universities, in relation to the recognition for the purposes of TEAS allowances of certain combined degrees. The University is pressing for the recognition of the combined Bachelor of Science-Bachelor of Economics degrees and also for the combined Bachelor of Science-Bachelor of Commerce degrees for the purpose of the TEAS allowance.

The position has been that the University introduced the combined Bachelor of Science-Bachelor of Economics degrees in 1980 and sought its recognition for the purpose of TEAS allowance. Concurrently introduced were the combined Bachelor of Science-Bachelor of Laws degrees and the combined Bachelor of Science (Forestry) -Bachelor of Economics degrees. The combined Bachelor of Science-Bachelor of Commerce degrees were introduced this year upon the inauguration of the Bachelor of Commerce degree. The combined Bachelor of Science-Bachelor of Laws degrees and the combined Bachelor of Science (Forestry)-Bachelor of Economics degrees were promptly recognised by the Department of Education and Youth Affairs for the purpose of TEAS. But the combined Bachelor of Science-Bachelor of Economics degrees were not. Likewise the combined Bachelor of Laws-Bachelor of Commerce degrees were promptly recognised this year, but a decision on the combined Bachelor of Science-Bachelor of Commerce degrees has been deferred.

This is not a matter in which any politics are involved. It is a matter which has continued during varying governments. It is a matter which I wish to raise, to put on record and to seek to have redressed, with better consideration of the problem. The combined programs should be of a type already approved for TEAS. What has happened is that the criterion has been applied inconsistently. The combined Bachelor of Science (Forestry)-Bachelor of Economics degrees were approved without precedent from any other university. As well this criterion militates against innovation in education which ought to be regarded as a desirable attitude. The combined degree program combines two specialist courses. One cannot validly make such generalisations from the names of degrees. For example, a science degree can be broadly based or specialised, as can an economics degree, a law degree or an arts degree. Moreover, should such a criterion be relevant for the purposes of TEAS recognition at all?

The time saving from the combined program is not substantial as compared with taking two degrees end-on. However, the time saving would normally be one year, as for the other combined degree programs offered by the University. The actual time saved will vary somewhat according to the particular subjects undertaken. I further comment that the combined degrees are not essential to the pursuit of any one particular career. This criterion has not been consistently applied, as probably none of the approved combined courses is necessary for any particular career. Neither are most first degrees necessary for particular careers. All science-based industries need managers who have a science degree combined with economics, commerce, law or business administration. The development of high technology industries in Australia is partly dependent upon companies being able to hire staff with such expertise. The science task force of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration in its report entitled ' Towards Diversity and Adaptability' referred to the continuing need for scientifically trained administrators in the Public Service.

Enrolments in science-economics degrees have been good from the outset. In 1984 at the Australia National University there are 74 students in the combined program. As well, there are 15 students in the combined science-commerce program . The Australian National University offers a range of combined degree programs. There programs are: Bachelor of Arts-Bachelor of Laws, Bachelor of Arts (Applied Science)-Bachelor of Laws, Bachelor of Arts (Applied Sciences)-Bachelor of Economics, Bachelor of Commerce-Bachelor of Laws, Bachelor of Commerce-Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Economics-Bachelor of Laws, Bachelor of Economics- Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Economics-Bachelor of Science (Forestry), and Bachelor of Science-Bachelor of Laws. All these programs are recognised for TEAS , except for the combined science-economics and science-commerce programs. Their exclusion appears to be totally and absolutely anomalous. Likewise all the graduate diploma programs, and the bachelor of literature programs offered by the University are recognised for TEAS purposes.

I find it quite amazing that this distinction has been made at a time when, as a result of the rate of technological change, at a time when never before in the history of the world, has it been more necessary that there be an understanding of the communication between science and economics, between what is called at the University of Stirling in Scotland, technological economics, and at a time when never before has there been a greater need for some new method of communication, the one area that would assist in that communication has been excluded from TEAS. I take this opportunity to ask the Minister to refer to the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan) and to the Department of Education and Youth Affairs the matters which I have raised and placed on the record tonight. I hope to be able to report to the Council meeting of the Australian National University tomorrow that this matter has been raised in the Senate tonight.


Senator Walsh —What time?


Senator PETER RAE —The Council meets at 9.30 tomorrow morning. I simply wish to be able to report that the matter has been raised. It is a matter which I have raised previously in the Senate and on the Council. As I set out, it has now reached the stage where recognition of a whole cross-section of combined degrees has been given, but recognition of the degrees that are probably the most essential has not been given. The absurdity, the incongruity and the anomalous nature of it is something which I find extraordinary. I ask the Minister to forward on to the relevant Minister and Department the matters I have raised tonight. I thank the Senate for the opportunity of so doing.