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Wednesday, 23 October 2002
Page: 5812


Senator Greig asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, Science and Training, upon notice, on 26 September 2002:

(1) Have enrolments into the Conservation of Cultural Materials and Cultural Heritage Management programs, offered at the University of Canberra, been cancelled for 2003.

(2) What is the reason for ceasing enrolments into these courses.

(3) Is it true that this program of study is unique in Australia.

(4) What other programs exist in south-east Asia and the Pacific that could train conservators in our cultural heritage.

(5) Is lack of government funding the reason these courses are being threatened.

(6) Does the Government believe that a scientifically-trained profession is important in the preservation of Australia's cultural heritage; if so, where will such professionals now be trained.

(7) How many countries have had students trained at this University of Canberra course.

(8) (a) Which government initiated the funding for this course; (b) in what year was it initiated; and (c) was it a result of the Pigott Report.

(9) How many students have graduated from these programs since its inception.

(10) If universities are to be encouraged to diversify and not replicate programs (as discussed in the Crossroads issues paper by the Minister for Education, Science and Training), why is the University of Canberra suspending a unique program.


Senator Alston (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —The Minister for Education, Science and Training has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The University of Canberra (UC) has advised that the following courses will not be open for new admissions in 2003:

365AK BAppSc Cultural Heritage Studies

624AA BAppSc/BComm CHS/Information

151AL GradDipAppSc Conservation of Cultural Materials

305AD MAppSc Cultural Conservation Studies

305AE MAppSc Conservation of Cultural Materials.

Cultural Heritage Management will be available as a major to new entrants within the Resource and Environmental degree. Further to this, the following courses will remain open for admission and enrolment:

589AD GradCertAppSc Cultural Heritage Studies

151AB GradDipAppSc Cultural Heritage Management

305AA MAppSc Cultural Heritage Management

(the Masters consists of the GradDip plus 24cp thesis - ie no additional subjects).

The University indicates that all current commitments to students in the relevant awards will be honoured.

(2) The University indicates that it has been cross subsidising these courses for many years and that it cannot continue to do so. The University is seeking further external support to allow these programmes to continue in subsequent years.

(3) The University of Canberra has advised that while its conservation course has unique features, related courses are taught at Curtin University of Technology, Deakin University, James Cook University, Melbourne University and the University of Western Sydney.

(4) The University advised that it is not aware of many similar programs in south-east Asia and the Pacific, but stated that there are many similar programs in Europe, for example, in Florence, Rome, Vienna and Northumbria.

(5) The Commonwealth does not fund universities for particular courses but provides block grant funding to universities for a specified number of student places consistent with each institution's teaching and research activities. As universities are autonomous institutions, generally established under State legislation, the allocation of funding to support various programs of study is an internal matter for the university to determine on the basis of its own assessment of needs and priorities.

The University advises that these courses cost many times more than the average course to run. An additional problem is the low take up rate, and a lack of precise information as to professional demand and its future.

(6) The Government has demonstrated the value it places on the preservation of Australia's cultural heritage by working cooperatively with State Cultural Ministers at the Cultural Ministers Council. The Council established a National Collections Advisory Forum to provide strategic advice on the future directions, needs and priorities of the heritage collections sector and to identify priorities for government in addressing these issues.

Related courses are currently taught at Curtin University of Technology, Deakin University, James Cook University, Melbourne University and the University of Western Sydney. If there is sufficient demand from students, employers and the profession, education institutions will respond by offering appropriate training and education.

(7) The University advises that students from at least 10 countries have undertaken its programmes.

(8) (a) The Federal Government provided funding for the Canberra College of Advanced Education (became the University of Canberra in 1990).

(b) The University advises that the course was established at the then Canberra College of Advanced Education in 1978 and that (c) the course was established as a result of the Pigott Report.

(9) The University advises that around 340 students have graduated from the programmes.

(10) The Government encourages universities to diversify their offerings to provide wider student choice and to meet the changing demands of industry and the professions, however the current funding arrangements have encouraged duplication across some university activities. The Higher Education Review Issues Paper, Varieties of Excellence: Diversity, Specialisation and Regional Engagement included a range of issues for debate, including possible options to facilitate further diversity and specialisation in higher education. However, as discussed under answer (5) above, decisions relating to specific course offerings are matters for universities to decide. The Government does not dictate to universities what decisions they should be taking in relation to course offerings.