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Monday, 25 February 1985
Page: 113


Senator ZAKHAROV —Has the Minister for Education seen recent Press reports suggesting that students in post-compulsory education are a privileged group in the community, that they come predominantly from high socio-economic backgrounds, that they can anticipate high prospective incomes, and that they already receive a substantial share of society's resources through free education? Do the facts support such assertions?


Senator RYAN —Honourable senators will be aware that there has been a great deal of discussion in the media recently about who tertiary students are and what kinds of backgrounds they come from. Unfortunately, the discussion has often been quite inaccurate and out of touch with developments in recent years. While it is the case that many students in tertiary education do come from privileged backgrounds and, by virtue of acquiring tertiary degrees and higher degrees, are ensuring that they will continue to be a privileged sector of society, it is certainly not true as a generalisation to describe tertiary students in that way.

Recent evidence available to my Department has indicated that those students who are recipients of student assistance benefits, mainly the tertiary education assistance scheme, are among the most disadvantaged groups in the community. Some 40 per cent of SAAS students-that is the secondary allowance assistance scheme-are children of pensioners or of the unemployed. For TEAS the figure is about 25 per cent. About 30 per cent of TEAS recipients, whose entitlement is based on parental income, are children of single parents. Technical and further education students, often destined for relatively low income occupations, make up 20 per cent of TEAS recipients.

Those statistics demonstrate that discussion about tertiary students should take into account the very high proportion of students, particularly in some categories, who come from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds. It is the policy of this Government to ensure that able students from disadvantaged backgrounds will not be prevented by the poverty of their families from getting some of those benefits which certainly are the fruits of tertiary study.