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Tuesday, 6 December 1960


Mr BANDIDT (Wide Bay) . -Mr. Deputy Speaker,in this debate the Opposition has directed criticism at both the Australian Universities Commission and the Government on several grounds. I feel that, first of all, it is only fair that we accord due recognition to the excellent work that has been done by the commission, and by the Government in bringing in this bill which is designed to carry into effect the recommendations of the commission. When one reads the commission's report on Australian universities for the period 1958-63, one cannot help but be struck by the fact that the commission has kept its feet firmly on the ground. It has not, in my opinion, attempted to indulge in some of the imaginings that we have heard voiced in the House this evening. It has made the best inquiries that it could make. Those inquiries have revealed to it that certain things can be expected, and the commission has made recommendations based on the findings resulting from those inquiries.

The difficulties relating to tertiary education in Australia are immense. Those difficulties relate to the student numbers and staff shortages which can be expected in the future, and to the problems of efficiency arising from various factors associated with tertiary education. At page 18 of its report, the commission states -

There is a changing attitude on the part of the Australian community towards the value of higher education.

We have, of course, observed this over the past 30 years in Australia. Thirty years ago, there was not very much tertiary education in this country in proportion to the population. The report refers to the changing attitude on the part of the Australian community, and continues -

This has been observed also in other communities.

The Universities Commission then mentions a survey conducted by the Ford Foundation in the United States of America, which revealed that in that country 69 per cent, of the children below the age of eighteen years in 1959 were in that year expected by their parents to go to university or college. That is really a remarkable percentage. The report of the Universities Commission continues -

Professor Frankel, of Columbia University, has described this new attitude as " the revolution of rising expectations "... In Australia the realization of this ideal is no doubt made easier to-day by the improved economic position of families and in part by the increased availability of scholarships and bursaries.

So the commission set out to determine how many students there will be by 1963 and in the following years. We have been told that the estimates are too great. But we must accept the estimates made by the various universities. Even if we discount some of them somewhat, we see that we shall have a very appreciable rise in the student population. In my home State, Queensland, predicted enrolments are 8,701 in 1960, 9,500 in 1961 and 18,000 in 1966 - an increase of almost 100 per cent, in five years, if that estimate is correct. That is a tremendous increase. But even if the estimate is too high and the student population rises only to say, 14,000 by 1966, the increase will still be remarkable.

One of the reasons for the prospective increase can be seen when we examine the numbers of young students in Queensland. In 1946, 7.600 primary school students sat for the State Scholarship examination. In 1949, the number had risen to 8,800. By 1955, it had risen to 14,900 and by 1958. to 20,800. The estimate for 1961 is 25,000. It is estimated that 27,000 students will sit for the State scholarship examination in 1963. In short, in the very brief space of time between 1946 and 1963 the number of students sitting for the scholarship examination will have risen by 250 per cent. In 1946, 4,400 students sat for the junior university examination. By 1958 this number had risen to 9,900, and by 1963 it is expected to be 17,600. In 1946, a total of 1,490 students sat for the senior university examination. By 1958 the number had risen to 3,200 and it is expected to be 6,500 by 1963. It will be noted that the number who sit for the senior university examination in 1963 will be four times as great as the number that sat in 1946. So we can expect a tremendous increase in the number of university as well as secondary school students by 1963.

The commission further states in its report that, in addition to the difficulties caused by the rising number of students, difficulties arise in relation to staff requirements. It is unnecessary for me to go into the details of staff requirements, because they are obvious. But I believe I should mention one fact to which the report directs attention - that is, that the range of subjects within a faculty sometimes is very wide. The report reads -

The proliferation of subjects in Australian universities is perhaps excessive and certainly costly.

This proliferation has gone on for some time, and it can be expected to continue for a considerable time to come. It has occurred in the University of Queensland as well as in the universities of the bigger capital cities. According to the findings of the commission, there is an optimum beyond which it is not desirable to take university students. The optimum in the case of the University of Queensland is 10.000 students. But as I have indicated, it is expected that the number is likely to rise to 18,000. It is obvious that other universities must be constructed in Queensland before very long so that the number of students attending the University of Queensland will not rise much above 10,000.

Because of the proliferation of courses and the increase in numbers, the University of Queensland estimates that it will need more than £3,000,000 for building in the next triennium, but it will receive only £2.200.000. No doubt the authorities there feel that they will not receive enough to cater for their requirements. We can imagine just how difficult their position will be rn the following triennium. In fact, some of the university authorities in Queensland believe that they will have to adopt a quota system after the coming triennium if they r'o not receive greater assistance to cope with increasing numbers.

Fortunately, the Queensland Governnent has seen the necessity for the decentralization of tertiary education. As a result, it is expected that the Townsville University College will commence operations during the coming vear. But. because of the growth of the number of students in the tertiary field, the establishment of that college will not solve the problem for Queensland. Doubtless not many years will pass before it will become necessary to have university colleges at Rockhampton and on the Darling Downs. Steps are already being taken to establish a university college on the Darling Downs, and there is a little competition between certain centres in relation to the siting of the college.

Although it has been suggested in this House to-night that the estimates of growth are exaggerated, I believe it is reasonable to assume, in view of all the information before us, that there will be a great increase in the number of students. Therefore, we as members of the National Parliament must pay increasing attention to the needs of the Australian universities as the years go by.







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