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"Asian Century" in doubt over Labor's education record

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Shadow Minister for Universities and Research

Senator Brett Mason

“Asian Century” in doubt over Labor’s education record


The Government needs to focus more on university standards and quality if it is serious about taking advantage of the “Asian Century”, according to Senator Brett Mason, Shadow Minister for Universities and Research.

“Over the past five years we’ve heard a lot of rhetoric and platitudes from this Government about education, but their record is one of failure and disappointment. Quite simply, Labor has not delivered so far, and we have every right to be concerned about the future,” said Senator Mason.

“The Government’s higher education rhetoric has been limited to equity and access. These are of course important but they won’t count for much unless quality and standards are maintained.

“Quality and standards are of paramount importance for making the most of the ‘Asian Century’ for two reasons. First, our domestic economy can only stay strong, competitive and productive if our university graduates are well qualified and properly equipped to face future challenges.

“Second, if we want to maintain and strengthen teaching and research ties with Asia, we need to ensure that our universities continue to provide a quality product. We can only attract more Asian students, whether to our universities in Australia or our campuses in Asia, if we can offer them an internationally respected qualification.

“Universities are increasingly coming to share long-standing Coalition concerns about the threat to standards posed by insufficiently resourced expansion of the sector.”

Senator Mason was commenting on the “Australia in the Asian Century” White Paper released yesterday , which touched on how universities can help Australia take advantage of opportunities inherent in the rise of Asia.

“If the Government wants to show that ‘university reform’ and the ‘Asian century’ are more than just rhetorical expressions, it needs to:

Guarantee that its drive to achieve the participation and equity targets is properly resourced and does not lead to a slippage in quality and standards;

Ensure that visa requirements do not discourage potential international students from choosing Australia as their university destination; and

Take seriously and become a driver of the APEC Vladivostok process to facilitate mobility of students, researchers and universities across the region, since Australia stands to gain the most from any such liberalisation.

Senator Mason said the White Paper was also inconsistent, advocating for Australia to have 10 universities in the world’s top 100 by 2025 at a time that the Government is cutting research and university spending.

“This target is hardly going to be achieved when the Government has shown it’s prepared to rip $1 billion out of university and research support as it did last week in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

“In the end however, only the Coalition, with its long and proud history of engagement with Asia, economic reform and interest in higher education can ensure that Australia maximises the benefits of the ‘Asian Century’.