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Thursday, 9 May 1985
Page: 1674

Senator TEAGUE(5.07) — I will make only two points alongside those of my colleague the shadow Minister for Education, Senator Peter Baume. The first is that Mr Hudson, in his presentation of the report to the Minister for Education (Senator Ryan), quite rightly looks for a Government reaction to, and presumably implementation of, his findings so that they can operate from 1 July. It is now May, so a very short time has been allowed by the Chairman of the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission during which he hopes the reforms that he has set out will be implemented.

Whilst his report was given to the Minister on 25 March and the Minister and, presumably, the Government have given consideration to it during these past two months, it is nevertheless less than two months before 1 July, which is the projected date that Mr Hudson referred to. Nevertheless, I make the plea to this Government that there be adequate consultation of all of those who are concerned. I do not refer only to the councils of the universities, the colleges of advanced education and technical and further education colleges, but to every institution and department and all of those students, staff and members of the public who are concerned about the structure of higher education.

Because this report has been brought to the Parliament and made public only today, there ought not to be too short a period for a public response to it so that views can be taken into account in the Government's consideration of it. I make the plea for an extended period in which this consultation may take place. The Opposition wants to ensure that responsible bodies have access to this report to comprehend it fully and, reflecting upon it, to see its implications for the better development of the provision of higher education in Australia.

The second general matter I wish to raise is the general sympathy of the Opposition for a renewed examination of the structure of and funding arrangements for higher education. For more than two decades higher education in Australia has had a binary structure. Universities are one thing; colleges of advanced education are the other. There have been changes in the definition of colleges of advanced education, as teachers colleges particularly came to assume that name and as a wide range of post-secondary training courses were developed in CAEs, but one of the enduring differences is the inability of a college of advanced education to conduct research and to award research degrees in the way that is and has always been the case with universities. In some areas this is still a proper restraint with regard to the concentration of resources into centres of excellence, that distinction always being before me when I think about colleges and universities. Nevertheless, I believe that colleges of advanced education have now developed in many places centres of excellence which ought not to be deterred from further contributing to Australia's education opportunities by being able to give research degrees and to be involved in research programs.

I believe that we are feeling the constraints of a couple of decades of developing structural lines in higher education which now ought to be made more flexible and re-examined. I am not calling for another giant royal commission into the structure of higher education but I believe that the Government should look beyond just the structure of the Tertiary Education Commission to the nature and structure of colleges and universities and, for that matter, the technical and further education sector more generally. The Opposition last year determined in its published policy statement on education a commitment to reviewing comprehensively the structure and funding of higher education. I refer to one paragraph in the statement released by the shadow Minister, Senator Peter Baume, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock). In part it says:

Leading educationists are questioning whether the rationale behind the binary structure of higher education is still tenable.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Colston) —Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.

Senator Teague —I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.