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Quality must not suffer as uni enrolments increase

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Quality must not suffer as uni enrolments increase Thursday, March 01

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Today’s data showing a rapid increase in university enrolments once again raises questions about the adequacy of resourcing, infrastructure, as well as the future of quality and standards in the tertiary sector, according to Senator Brett Mason, Shadow Minister for Universities and Research.

“The Coalition cautiously welcomes these early indicative figures, but remains concerned about the Government’s lack of a robust plan to help universities deal with this influx,” said Senator Mason.

Figures released today by some universities estimate an additional 220,000 university offers were made to undergraduate students in 2012 compared to the same time last year.

The data also shows that the number of student places has increased by 25 per cent since 2007 but funding to universities has not even remotely kept pace with this increase.

“While the Coalition welcomes this apparent four per cent increase in university offers since last year, there are still very real reservations about the potential effects of uncapping enrolments on quality and standards,” said Senator Mason.

“We consider quality and standards to be non-negotiable. We cannot allow them to suffer because the Government is putting more students into universities but without providing necessary additional resources, forcing universities to do more with less.

“Although the government is funding more student places, universities are actually receiving less money per student to work with.

“With increased student numbers there is a need for additional infrastructure to support learning and teaching activities. Maintenance of existing assets and establishment of new ones is an ongoing cost that remains largely unaddressed by the government. This presents universities with the challenge of absorbing a large number of additional students, with limited resources, while maintaining the quality of education offered to students.

The increase in university offers stems from the Bradley Review’s targets of 40 per cent participation and 20 per cent low-SES participation by 2025. This aspiration has received bi-partisan support from the Coalition.

“To achieve these goals, universities will have to keep taking on hundreds of thousands of students, many of whom would previously not have been engaged in university study,” said Senator Mason.

“It is important that more low-SES students indeed obtain the benefit of higher education, particularly since in the past, efforts to increase their participation rates have not been successful.

“On the other hand, we have to ensure that all students accepted by universities have the necessary skills in order to successfully complete their degrees, without quality and standards being lowered.”

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