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Thursday, 13 September 1984
Page: 968

Senator CROWLEY —My question is to the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs. Has the Minister seen the article in today's Age headed 'Women lead the growth in university enrolments' which shows the Australian Bureau of Statistics' figures for university and advanced education student enrolments, revealing a 2 per cent increase for university students, a 3 per cent increase for advanced education students and, surprisingly, a 13 per cent increase in post graduate study groups? Is the Minister satisfied that this increase is part of the Government's efforts and the efforts of the Education Department in encouraging students to further their studies? Is the increase in students matched by sufficient places and facilities? Does the Minister expect this increase to be maintained?

Senator RYAN —It is very heartening to see that there is increased participation in higher education and in post-graduate education as revealed in the ABS survey . It has been the policy of our Government since we came into office to encourage such participation and to support it by way of increased funding for higher education institutions and increases in income support provisions for students. It is our view that, given the changed nature of the Australian work force, given the much greater demands for a highly educated, flexible work force , it is absolutely essential that more young Australians have the opportunity to get the benefits of higher education.

We appreciate that during the seven years of the Fraser administration there were real cutbacks in funding for higher education and a real fall off in the participation levels of students in higher education. I think a generally low morale was induced throughout institutions of higher education and the feeling was abroad amongst young people that it was pointless to pursue higher education because employment opportunities were so restricted. Fortunately, we have been able to turn that situation around. We are now seeing increased participation in all elements of education, especially at the upper secondary level, which is essential to young people being able to participate further in higher education.

We have turned around funding to higher education and given the first substantial increases in seven years. The funding decisions that I announced for tertiary education in the tertiary education guidelines will mean an extra 30, 000 full time places in tertiary education over the next three years. We hope that we can supplement and increase that growth in future years.

Clearly higher education, tertiary education, is once again in a growth situation and the participation statistics which Senator Crowley's question revealed are heartening to the Government although, of course, it is not complacent and does not want to rest there. We want to see more opportunities and we believe that the increase of 10 per cent in the tertiary allowances and of 15 per cent in allowances for secondary students that we have been able to provide in this year's Budget, together with an easing of the eligibility tests and an easing of the means test on family incomes, will mean that many thousands more young Australians will have the opportunity to benefit from higher education.