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Government fails students on unmet demand.

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DEMOCRATS MEDIA 04/332 FRIDAY 30 APRIL 2004 SENATOR NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS HIGHER EDUCATION SPOKESPERSON GOVERNMENT FAILS STUDENTS ON UNMET DEMAND The Australian Democrats said today the high level of unmet demand for university places revealed in figures released by the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee is a national disgrace. Democrats' Higher Education spokesperson Senator Natasha Stott Despoja said it is unforgivable that 28 per cent of eligible applicants have missed out on an offer of a university place this year. "It seems Dr Nelson's solution to unmet demand is to rely on students dropping out of their courses," Senator Stott Despoja said. "Blithely suggesting that 4 out of 10 students will drop out is not a remedy for unmet demand, it is an expose of the difficulties facing some students. "I would not be surprised if the number of students who drop out actually increases in 2004 as a result of the increased pressures on university students. These pressures include HECS and other fees, a likely hike in the cost of textbooks if the Educational Textbook Subsidy Scheme is not extended, and inadequate income support. "The Minister can not ignore it: higher education requires significant reinvestment, not user pays or further cost shifting. "The most worrying aspect of this data is there is still no definite signal of a reversal of the trend of increasing unmet demand which has been occurring since 1998. "The shortfall of around 9,000 places resulting from the Government's phase out of marginally funded places over the next four years and the delayed introduction of 'Growth places' in 2007 under the Backing Australia's Future policy will mean that aspiring students can expect this level of unmet demand at least until 2007. "At a time when Australia is facing shortages in key professions, such as teaching, the Government should be providing opportunities for applicants willing to enter those professions. "These figures confirm that the Howard Government has failed to reverse the six year trend of climbing unmet demand and that Backing Australia's Future will not deliver the answers. "I call on the Government to bring forward the growth places planned for 2007 as a first step towards addressing these high levels of unmet demand,” Senator Stott Despoja concluded. Media Contact - Raina Hunter - 0402 145 820