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Thursday, 11 April 1957

Mr CASEY (Minister for External Affairs) - Perhaps I might venture to reply to the question. I am not aware that any of the Asian students who have come to this country under the Colombo plan are at secondary schools. The students are mainly at universities, technical colleges and hospitals, or are working in State and Federal Government departments and the like. I forget the precise figure, but I believe that slightly over 800 Colombo plan students from Asia are here now. Those students must not be confused with the something like 4,000 Asian students who have come here under their own steam.

Mr Bird - I mentioned students other than those who have come here under the Colombo plan.

Mr CASEY - There are just over 800 Colombo plan students and there are about. 4,000 private students. The Government has no control of the numbers of the private students or where they go. The Department of External Affairs co-operates closely with the Commonwealth Office of Education in respect of Colombo plan students, and, through that instrumentality, with universities, technical colleges and the like. We are constantly receiving information as to the number of vacancies in particular schools and particular branches of learning at universities,, and we adjust our invitations in ' respect of new Colombo plan trainees from Asian countries to the number of vacancies in medicine, various branches of engineering, and the like, available at the appropriate educational establishments. So I think it can be said, with complete truth, that no Australian is denied a place at a university or a technical college because a Colombo plan student has filled a vacancy that he might otherwise have had. As to the increase of the number of students, it has been my policy, on behalf of the Government, to regard the present numbers, or something not very much in advance of them, as the ceiling. In other words, I regard a total of towards 850 Colombo plan students as being the ceiling, with our accommodation in universities as it is. From the financial point of view, also, I regard that as something like the ceiling. The numbers of Colombo plan students have increased on a fairly steeply ascending curve, and now we are going to ensure that they taper off. We believe that a maximum number of about 850 Colombo plan students is not only a fair, but also a very generous total for Australia to accommodate and look after. The honorable gentleman's inference that the numbers of Colombo plan students taken by Australia would increase considerably in the future to the detriment of Australians seeking admittance to educational institutions, and that it would impose an undue burden on the finances of universities, will not, I think, hold water. I am very glad to assure the honorable gentleman in that direction.

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