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Tuesday, 2 December 1986
Page: 3200

Senator RYAN (Minister for Education)(9.44) —The Australian Democrats' proposal is not acceptable to the Government. In the first instance, it would mean a loss of revenue of $20m and it would be a loss that we would be sustaining with no evidence for the points of view that Senator Macklin has put forward. I have already reminded honourable senators that the vast majority of part time and external students are in employment and earning wages, and that as yet we have no evidence that the requirement to pay $250 will present any real obstacle to them. It is also the case that the charge is regarded by us as a proportion of the administrative costs that an institution incurs in administering education services to students. Those services must be rendered every year for which the student is enrolled. If an external student takes nine years to complete his or her degree, that student has access to the administration of the institution for nine years-a longer period than a student who completes a degree in three or four years. There is an element of rational assessment in the provision as it stands.

Senator Macklin pointed out that in the view of institutions, generally speaking, the costs of administration for full time students is greater than those for part time students but, of course, the $250 bears no relationship to the full cost in any event. It is merely a contribution to a cost which would be greatly in excess of $250 for administration, be it for a part time or a full time student. As yet we have no evidence that the minority of students who are not in paid employment will find the $250 fee an obstacle or will not be able to borrow it from the loan funds. As I said, the research project that we are funding will look specifically at the effect on the participation of part time and external students, and the Government will examine the results of that at that stage.