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Wednesday, 25 March 1987
Page: 1300


Senator WEST —Has the Minister for Education seen the comments on education in today's Australian? Can the Minister confirm that, without the money raised by the $250 administration charge, student numbers this year would have contracted? Is it a fact that this year 30,000 students will be locked out of higher education?


Senator RYAN —My attention has been drawn to an article in the Australian Higher Education Supplement today which was written by the Opposition's spokesperson, Mr Peter Shack. Apart from the trite generalisations and off the track ravings of Mr Shack, there were a number of factual errors. Before I go on to point out these errors and comment on them, I might say that it would do the Opposition a lot better if Mr Shack would research a few facts before he started sounding off.


Senator Archer —Thanks for the advice.


Senator RYAN —The Opposition certainly needs a bit of advice. One of Mr Shack's totally erroneous claims was referred to in Senator West's question-that is, that student numbers in 1987 would have contracted without the higher education charge. That is clearly wrong and could easily have been corrected by reference to the 1986-87 Budget Papers which document our commitment to continued growth in 1987, with an extra 10,000 places expected, including 2,000 new intakes. The charge has enabled us to increase new intakes from 2,000 to 3,000. That information is readily available in Budget documents.

Another erroneous claim made by Mr Shack in his article was that the private income of higher education institutions is 2 per cent. This is clearly wrong and, again, a simple reference to the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission report shows that income for institutions from non-government sources in 1983 was 9 per cent, and this would now be higher because of the various policies of our Government, including the 150 per cent research and development tax concession-that is creating about a $100m a year turnover from the private research companies of universities and colleges-and the full fee places for overseas students. The claim that 30,000 students were locked out last year-a claim that Mr Shack likes to make frequently-is clearly wrong. The number of students who were unsuccessful in gaining places for 1986 was around 10,000 and, again, those figures were confirmed by the Vice-Chancellors Committee.

Also, the claim that there had been a decade of stagnation in higher education up until now is clearly wrong. Over the past decade we have had six years of decline under the Fraser Government's policies-not stagnation, but actual decline-which is clearly documented in the CTEC report, followed by four years of steady growth under the Hawke Government's policies. It makes no constructive contribution to the education debate, nor does it do any good to students or aspiring students, for Mr Shack to get himself space in the Australian or some other journal and then repeat a number of these fallacies. I hope that the publishers of the Australian Higher Education Supplement will take note of these inaccuracies as the education community is very well aware of them.