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Monday, 26 November 1973
Page: 3847


Dr JENKINS (Scullin) - I listened with interest to the honourable member for Warringah {Mr MacKellar), particularly when he talked about the Australian Government holding guns at the heads of the State Premiers to force them to accept financial assistance. I do not know about his State, but I can assure him that certainly in Victoria during the last State elections the Liberal Premier and the Liberal Minister for Education accepted the guns at their heads with glee and very happily spent the extra finances that were to be made available to the Victorian Department of Education from these sources. In fact, in being fair minded and even handed, the honourable member for Warringah might have remembered that a Bill will be before the House tomorrow which makes provision for vastly improved expenditure on primary and secondary education.

Another thing I should like to comment on is the statement of the deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) who implied that this Government was forcing a fourth university on Victoria at a specified site. The real problem in Victoria is that the Australian Universities Commission has waited so long for a statement from the Victorian Minister for Education as to this other institution that decisions have been delayed. Now the State Minister is trying to foist his own concept of this institution on local authorities. He is talking of multicampus type institutions in country centres. This is admirable in its concept, but one of the things in his concept is that this plan should be superimposed on teachers' colleges and completely ignores the existence of colleges of advanced education and technical institutes.

For example, in the electorate of my colleague the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) the superimposition of a teachers college will mean the acquisition of a new site and the building of a new institution. The Gordon Institute of Technology, a well respected institution which already exists has a campus site at Waurn Ponds. An area is available for the site to be extended so that one good tertiary institution could be established there with a viable number of students. If the Victorian Minister gets his way with his double institution it will be a long time before a viable institution is established. There will be 2 sites and 2 buildings competing for finance and competing in every way. So I think that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would have been far better to have let that aspect alone.

In looking at this group of Bills it is rather interesting to reflect that we are dealing in some instances with finance that was made available during the 1969-72 triennial allocations. These amounts have been reallocated so that they serve a useful purpose. The Bills actually bring up to date the allocations for teachers colleges, colleges of advanced education and universities in the 1972-75 triennium. I suppose that one might say that the real crunch will come in the next triennium of 1975-78 when one sees what sort of propositions are put forward for new courses, new concepts, and new facilities at tertiary institutions.

In dealing with this matter of tertiary institutions I think it may be as well just to outline briefly the history of this type of financing of tertiary institutions. It indicates a rather basic difference in philosophy between the Government and the Opposition. The Australian Parliament in the past has concentrated far more on tertiary education than any other field of education. Earlier today I spoke of the grants that originated in war time for students in protected faculties. Their fees were paid, they were given book and equipment allowances and they were paid a living allowance according to a means test. Such students had to promise to give 3 years service to the Commonwealth Government if required. As far as I know no student was ever required to fulfill that promise.

In the post war period this scheme was added to by the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme, which produced many graduates from ex-servicemen. However, then there was a change of government and a change in philosophy. We then had the Commonwealth tertiary scholarships scheme - I use the term tertiary scholarships scheme to group all the schemes together - which served a completely different function. The previous schemes had relied on the ability of the student to qualify for university entrance. The Commonwealth scholarships scheme, which had its good points, however, relied on the student being allocated a position on merit. It was easier for those who were privileged and advantaged in their educational backgrounds to obtain these awards. One feels that perhaps many students who would have benefited under the previous scheme were disadvantaged by the subsequent scholarship scheme. With the change of Government there is now a swing back to a situation in which all students at tertiary institutions will be able to attend without paying fees and will receive appropriate living allowances. This will increase the opportunities for persons to pursue their educations. Some doubts have been expressed that this process may lead to a overloading of the institutions. Only time will tell.

I would have joined those who criticise the Australian Government concern with tertiary education as the main thrust of its education policy if it were not that this Government has instituted measures which will give a substantial injection of finance into other areas of education. When I think of the situation of 39 per cent of fourth form students in one high school requiring remedial education, I feel that the primary and secondary sphere of education should have more money spent on it. However, it is a historical fact that the Government has accepted tertiary education as essentially its primary concern. Now, we are getting down to the really nitty-gritty - to primary and secondary education and to disadvantaged children.

So I am not going to criticise the Government's overriding tertiary interest as an initial interest. However, I think that there is an aspect that might arise out of our assistance to colleges of advanced' education, institutes of technology and universities. That is the extension into external studies and open universities of opportunities for those who have not formal university or college of advanced education entrance qualifications. I mention this because the La Trobe University in my electorate has run a rather interesting project under which it has admitted students who do not have the formal admission requirements of a university, nor have they even attempted to attain those qualifications.

The university has admitted a number of students to courses on a trial basis, and their performance has been very good. One feels that opportunities should be given for an extension of this. As far as I can ascertain, only the University of New England and the Macquarie University have schools for external studies. I believe that many people could be benefited by universities increasing the opportunities for external studies. I think perhaps that the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) was nodding his head then. These external studies courses are most helpful for persons in remote areas, just as they are for persons even in urban areas where the opportunity to attend tertiary institutions may be restricted by occupation or other reasons, although these persons wish to continue their education and to gain knowledge. I think that there is a very real role for an expansion of this facility.

One of the other problems that is cited with regard to tertiary institutions in the question of whether institutes of technology and colleges of advanced education in awarding degrees may not by very inclination shift towards the university atmosphere and the university concept of courses. I can recall the occasion when on behalf of the Opposition in the Victorian Parliament, I handled the Victorian Institute of Colleges Bill. We were told that the Victorian Institute of Colleges was to give much more practical degrees, that it was to follow the British concept of giving degrees in more technological sciences and so on, and that these degrees were to be for the practical persons with a practical knowledge of the various subjects rather than the purely didactic or theoretical learning of subjects. I have a reservation about some of the colleges of advanced education and institutes of technology. There is a tendency for these bodies to see themselves as being of the same kind as universities and for their courses gradually to alter to the university type courses. I think it would be a shame if these bodies overlooked their very real role in giving an education different from that given by the norma! university in the Oxbridge or red brick tradition.

Sometimes we are amused about the subjects undertaken at colleges and universities in the United States of America. Sometimes we show some friendly amusement about the sort of units with which students can be credited for courses undertaken. But looking at the overall situation, I think there is much benefit in these wiser and practical courses that allow persons to acquire quite a breadth of general education which may not necessarily suit them for a particular vocation or profession but which may very well suit them ideally for every day life, communication with their fellows and the conduct of whatever the activities in which they are engaged. So I hope that colleges of advanced education and institutes of technology will use their facilities to give this variety of courses in the community for other than formal occupations.

One has some other queries regarding the question of fees not being paid at tertiary institutions. I think that one also has to start thinking about those students who, having taken a first degree, look forward to taking a second degree either because it is a vocational one or because they have a love of knowledge for knowledge's sake. We may have to start to do some educational research on the motivation of these persons and the number of persons who are involved at tertiary institutions. I am sure, just as I spoke of the open university and the external studies departments, that this question of persons wanting to continue to second degrees will become really important.

I note with some pleasure among the allocations in these Bills the allocation for the social worker course at the Preston Institute of Technology. The Preston Institute was one of the original members of the Victorian Institute of Colleges. It existed for many years in my electorate, but now it has shifted to another campus at Bundoora. I am pleased that this Institute will be able to set up its course in social work because there will be a much increased demand for social workers in the community, not only because federal authorities are increasing the instrumentalities that are using social workers to carry out their work but also because of the problems that exist and the much wider appreciation by people and institutions of the fact that social workers can serve a very useful purpose in the community. To illustrate that point, I have in my electorate one state school which is in a socio-economically deprived area. The committee at that school is most anxious that social workers should be associated with the staff of the school to deal with many of the problems facing the children at the school. At the present time these social workers are just not available. I am pleased that grants such as that to be made to the Preston Institute of Technology will result in an increase in the supply of social workers who will be needed in the future.

This cognate debate covers a very wide range of matters affecting tertiary education. 1 believe that this Government has kept faith in its allocation of money for these purposes. As I said during the earlier part of my speech, I think that the crunch will come in the next triennium, when we see just what this financial assistance has done for these tertiary institutions and how they will respond to the stimulus that they are given, because respond they must in the submissions that they make for the next triennium and in the variety of courses and the variety of facilities which they will make available and which will allow young men and women to cope with the needs of modern day life.







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