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Invest in the future, invest in universities.

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Senator Natasha Stott Despoja Leader of the Australian Democrats Higher Education spokesperson

September 27 2001 MEDIA RELEASE 01/572

Invest in the Future, invest in Universities Australia’s universities are in crisis due to inadequate funding and excessive competition according to the Senate Inquiry into Higher Education released today.

Leader of the Australian Democrats and committee member, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, said the case for substantial and urgent re-investment of public funds in our universities is overwhelming.

“The recommendations in the Chair’s and Democrats’ reports need urgent implementation if our universities are to play the roles the community expects in a global knowledge economy,” said Senator Stott Despoja.

“If this, or a future government, fails to commit substantial funds it will constitute a serious abrogation of responsibility to Australia’s future social, cultural and economic prosperity.

“The crisis is a result of deliberate government policy choices about competition and markets, implemented by the ALP in the late 1980s and intensified by the Coalition since 1996.

“The inquiry received conclusive evidence that over-crowding of classrooms, worsening staff:student ratios, increased workloads and uncompetitive salaries are having serious effects on the quality of the teaching and learning.

“The inquiry also demonstrated that income support measures for students are inadequate in terms of level of payments, a punitive parental income test, lack of rental assistance for Austudy recipients and the restrictions on access to Austudy through the independence test.

“Student poverty is having a substantial effect on their studies with 70% of students being forced to work two days a week.

“The overly restrictive income support measures are a false economy, as the community is not gaining the optimum benefits of university education.

“The Democrats call on the Government to invest in our universities as an urgent priority,” concluded Senator Stott Despoja.

For further information: Alison Rogers: 0419 867 649