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IC report on education puts government in hot seat



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DR D A V ID K E M P , M .P. F E D E R A L M E M B E R F O R G O L D S T E IN SH A D O W M I N I S T E R F O R ED U C A TIO N

25 September 1991 EMBARGO: 1 a.m. Thursday 26 September

MEDIA RELEASE

1C REPORT ON EDUCATION PUTS GOVERNMENT IN HOT SEAT

The Government is under further pressure to make radical changes to its higher education policies following the release of the final report of the Industry- Commission on Exports of Education Services.

The Shadow Minister for Education, Dr David Kemp, welcomed the report, and hailed it as further vindication of the Opposition's long-standing criticism of the system of highly centralised regulation of universities imposed by Mr Dawkins.

"Mr Baldwin is now in the hot seat. In his much-delayed statement of the Government's strategy for higher education for the 1990s, he must now face up to the issues raised by the Industry Commission and dump Mr Dawkins's failed policy," said Dr Kemp.

"The Commission has been unequivocal in its conclusion that existing funding arrangements for higher education are flawed," (p. 183) Dr Kemp said.

"The options it identifies are those which have been central to the Coalition's alternative policy.

"The Commission has identified the nub of the problem: that the present arrangements have no satisfactory means of assessing the costs and value to society and to students of funding decisions, and as a consequence decisions by government and by institutions as to how many places there are, and how they are allocated, will very likely be wrong.

"The issues may be couched by the Commission in economic language, but a policy which properly addresses them is equally fundamental to excellence in teaching and research, to expanded career opportunities and a more satisfying intellectual environment for academics, and more places for qualified students.

COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIB RA R Y MICAH

"There is no prospect that the highly regulated centralised system Mr Dawkins has put in place will provide Australia with the kind of higher education Australians want, or the universities are capable of providing."

Dr Kemp said it was tragic that despite all the upheaval and pain that has been suffered by the higher education sector, there was still no satisfactory framework for the development of higher education over this decade and beyond.

The Commission has strongly endorsed the view that on grounds of both equity and efficiency a more flexible and market responsive higher education system is required.

The Commission in its report has specifically put forward the option of vouchers as a mechanism which might be used to introduce greater price flexibility into higher education.

The Commission has also identified inflexibilities in the labour market for academics as an important problem (p. 165), leading to a mismatch between student demand and what universities can offer.

"Academics and students have much to gain in both expanded opportunities and rewards for quality, from a system of more independent universities," said Dr Kemp.

On the issue of equity, the Commission concludes: "Under current funding arrangements there are inequities between different groups of Australian students. Most significantly, these students with tertiary entrance scores high enough to obtain aubsidised places receive subsidies worth many tens of thousands of dollars, while students with fractionally lower scores must give up university aspirations."

Dr Kemp said the Liberal/National Coalition endorsed the request by the Industry Commission for a public inquiry to determine what arrangements would be most appropriate for the provision of funds for higher education, including the mechanisms by which this might be achieved.

Dr Kemp said the Industry Commission was quite correct in refusing to accept that previous inquiries had been adequate. The Industry Commission had heard clear evidence during the course of its present inquiry that there were a wide range of

inconsistencies, inequities and inappropriate incentives present in current arrangements.

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"Suggestions that NBEET may be given a reference to inquiry into the 'optimum size' of the higher education sector shows that the Government is still refusing to face up to the fundamental issues. As the Commission states clearly in its report (p. 183):

"...it is not just a question of finding additional places, whether within or outside the university sector, for unsuccessful applicants. The value given to a place by society, and importantly, by the student, needs to be part of the process of determining the availability of those places, and decisions as to how they are to be filled."

"A failure by the Government to give a reference to the Commission will further demonstrate the ideological character of the present policy, and the Government's continued resistance to subjecting it to rational analysis," said Dr Kemp.

Inquiries: (06) 277 4151, (06) 277 2037

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