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Universities Australia Annual Conference 2012

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Universities confirm Coalition’s concerns over standards Thursday, April 26

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Universities are increasingly coming to share long-standing Coalition concerns about the threat to standards posed by insufficiently resourced expansion of the sector, according to Senator Brett Mason, Shadow Minister for Universities and Research.

“Julie Hare’s front page article in today’s ‘Australian’ echoes what the Coalition has been warning for months - the Government’s decision to uncap university places has been implemented without suitable planning and fiscal consideration, putting standards at risk,” said Senator Mason.

“The Coalition’s position on the quality versus quantity in universities debate is being increasingly vindicated. For some time now, we have been warning that while the Government’s 40 per cent tertiary participation goal is admirable, quality and standards must not be sacrificed in order to achieve it.

“A recently released report from the Australian Council of Educational Research found that Australian Tertiary Admission Rank entry scores used to determine university placements were, on average, declining. Combine this with an increase in the percentage of applicants being offered a place and the lack of appropriate resources and you have a recipe for the university sector slowly meandering into mediocrity.

“While the Government claims to be investing more money in universities, they’re actually contributing less money per student, as infrastructure funding is not keeping up with the increase in student numbers. This goes against both the spirit and the recommendations of the Government-commissioned Base Funding review.”

Professor of Higher Education, Simon Marginson, from the University of Melbourne, was today quoted as saying that if the Government continues to push for a rapid increase in student numbers without providing additional funds for teaching and learning, quality would undoubtedly suffer. This would lead to a trade-off between quality and quantity, with an eventual decline in teaching standards.

“The Coalition considers quality and standards to be non-negotiable,” said Senator Mason.

“We cannot allow them to suffer because the Government is putting more students into universities but failing to provide necessary additional resources. This will only force universities to try and do more with less, with dire long-term consequences for the students, the Australian economy and our position as a world leader in international education.”

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