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Thursday, 27 February 1975
Page: 899

Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) (Minister for Education) - As far as the matter raised by the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) is concerned, namely, the policy change of the admission body of Monash University, if he desires me to express an opinion entirely as an outsider as he himself is on this matter, I should say that the policy change of the admission body should have been notified in time to influence student decisions. Having said that, I just draw attention to one or two things. There are 4 000 tertiary Asian students in this country. There are 1 1 000 Asian students altogether in this country. The only decisions that have been made by myself in relation to those students, especially the tertiary ones, are in relation to our power to grant benefits to students. We have made universities, colleges of advanced education and technical colleges free for those students precisely in the same way as they are free for Australian students. One distinguished headmaster of an A category school in an attack on me over this decision pointed out that over the three or four years of a course this probably cost the Australian taxpayer $50m and that there is no other country either among the Asian countries themselves or any European country which extends a similar benefit to Asian students.

I just draw attention to this matter. I certainly will inquire of Monash University about a change and a fixed percentage of Asian students going into the medical faculty. It would be entirely defensible if the University took the view that it simply admitted people into the medical faculty according to their results in admission tests. This might let in all the Asian students who apply, or it might let in none of them. Presumably the University has made some kind of a policy decision that there is a service to be rendered to Asian countries by admitting Asian students to the medical faculty. If the honourable member for Deakin is correct, the university concerned has decided to reduce the number of Asian students entering. I will inquire why, but not as a person having any authority.

I draw the attention of the honourable gentleman to the constitutional position. Only one university has been created by an Act of the Crown through the Commonwealth, and that is the Australian National University. This Parliament has never taken power- in my view it should not take power- to control the Australian National University. Monash University and the University of Melbourne, which are the universities to which the honourable member referred, were created by Acts of the Crown through the State. The State Parliament of Victoria has never taken power to control the actions of the universities. They are entirely autonomous. Insofar as an Australian High Commissioner is involved, I have no doubt that he gave the advice on the existing regulations of the universities to which these people might ultimately apply for entry. If he gave them the impression that if they passed at the secondary level they would automatically be able to get into Monash University, he would be giving them incompetent advice. I find it very hard to believe that he would say that. The students would understand that they would have to pass and that if they passed well enough competitively they might enter the medical faculty. Of course the medical faculty is not only most competitive for Asian students; it is just about the most competitive faculty to get into for any student. The enrolment usually is limited by the amount of space in hospitals for the clinical training which is associated with the degree course.

I do not want to suggest to the headmistress of the Methodist Ladies College or to the Asian students that in making any inquiries about this matter I do so with authority or with the power to direct the university. I do not seek that power. I certainly believe that universities should not suddenly change their admission regulations without due notification to the students. In view of the fact that people make decisions a year or two beforehand, the notice should be adequate. But that is only an opinion. It is not a statement of authority. I shall have inquiries made and I shall inform the honourable member.

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