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Wednesday, 11 September 1985
Page: 451


Senator GILES —I refer the Minister for Education to comments made by the Opposition spokesperson on education, Mr Shack, in an article in the Australian in which he said that 30,000 Australians each year had their applications to attend universities and colleges of advanced education turned down. Can the Minister advise how many Australians were refused entry to universities and colleges of advanced education in 1985? Are these students locked out, as Mr Shack insists?


Senator RYAN —Now that Mr Shack is his Party's spokesperson on education matters I hope that he will make sure that he obtains more accurate information before he embarks on criticising the Government. In fact, the measure of unmet demand is very much lower than Mr Shack's comments suggested. I will be happy to offer Mr Shack a briefing by the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission so that he can be properly informed about the progress our Government has made in expanding places available to people in higher education institutions.

I remind honourable senators that there has been a significant turnaround in the attitude of young people to higher education. Participation rates increased in 1983 and 1984 and, of course, that was in contrast to the rates applicable in previous years under the Fraser Adminstration when the rates were declining. We increased the annual intakes by 3,000 in 1984 and by 1,300 in 1985. We then announced that there would be an increase of between 1,750 and 2,250 places in each of 1986 and 1987. So these and previous intakes will result in total enrolment growth of 20,500 by 1987. In regard to the question of unmet demand, the current estimates-or the estimates that I am most familiar with from the Tertiary Education Commission-are that it would be similar to what it was last year-that is, nationally, in the vicinity of between 5,000 and 10,000.


Senator Peter Baume —Too low. That is not correct. It is 10,000 to 29,000.


Senator RYAN —Senator Baume interjects that it is 10,000 to 29,000 I have seen no evidence that that is the case. The figure for unmet demand is in the vicinity of 5,000 to 10,000. The Government is concerned about the level of unmet demand and we will be taking whatever steps we can to continue to increase the places available. I think it is important that false claims about unmet demand are not made because they are very discouraging to students who are currently completing their secondary education with the hope of moving on to a higher education. Certainly, the situation for those young people is very much better now than it was at the time when our Government came into office.