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Tuesday, 5 November 1985
Page: 1524


Senator RYAN (Minister for Education) —by leave-I present for the information of honourable senators volume 3 of the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission's report for the 1985-87 triennium concerning recommendations for 1986. This volume of the report responds to the Government's supplementary guidelines which I announced on 20 August 1985, and makes recommendations on the distribution of additional funds for universities and colleges of advanced education for 1986 and 1987, and the Commonwealth's contribution to technical and further education for 1986. The Government has accepted the Commission's recommendations for the distribution of the additional funds.

When this Government assumed office in 1983 tertiary education had been subject to a number of years of neglect. Higher education funding levels decreased each year between 1979 and 1982 and little effort had been made to increase the opportunities for people traditionally unrepresented in tertiary education to gain access to our colleges and universities. We came to office with a strong commitment to the tertiary education sector, determined to return funding to a level that would accommodate growth and to broaden access to tertiary education. We immediately provided additional funds for 1984 to improve participation and to achieve equity in access by disadvantaged groups. Our decisions at the beginning of the 1985-87 triennium reflected our continued commitment to tertiary education by increasing funds in 1985 by 2.8 per cent on the previous year. This was the largest funding increase since the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission was established in 1977. In the 1985-86 Budget we announced a further increase of 1.9 per cent in real terms for 1986 and the provision of an extra 5,500 student places in universities and colleges over the two-year period 1986-87. Our decisions for the 1985-87 triennium continue, and substantially build on, our participation and equity policies.

Higher Education

In higher education, the Government has provided substantial funding increases in support of its policies. The Government has already announced an extra $281.75m in the 1985-87 triennium over 1984 funding levels. In addition, the funds necessary to support a further increase in intakes of some 2,000 in 1987 will be determined in the 1986-87 Budget context. The Government has a record of substantial achievements:

By 1987 enrolments will be some 28,000 higher than 1983. This increase in participation has been substantially in science and technology courses of direct relevance to Australia's economic requirements;

Equity of access has been improved. Substantial increases in Aboriginal enrolments have been provided for and institutions have made progress in reviewing entrance requirements to promote access by the disadvantaged;

The focus of enrolment growth in outer metropolitan and regional areas has served to broaden access;

The capital program has been revitalised with an extra $42.9m being provided over the triennium to enable a significant increase in the number of new buildings being constructed;

An extra $10.8m in equipment funds has been provided to cater for enrolment growth and to allow institutions to upgrade equipment holdings.

In making recommendations on the detailed State and institutional distribution of funds for 1986, the CTEC was involved in extensive negotiations with State co-ordinating authorities and institutions, particularly in regard to the size, nature and appropriate funding levels for additional intakes at specific institutions in 1986. The difficulties experienced by institutions in regulating intakes, enrolments and student load with precision have been reported on by CTEC and the Government has agreed to the introduction of student planning ranges in colleges of advanced education. Such ranges have been used in universities for some time and provide flexibility to cope with shifts in student demand.

Technical and Further Education

Rapid changes have occurred in the TAFE sector over the last decade. Recognising the new challenges that lie ahead the Government decided to undertake a wide-ranging review of its role in TAFE to examine the effectiveness of existing Commonwealth grants in meeting their objectives, the appropriate role of the Commonwealth in funding and policy development, and the extent of State accountability and Commonwealth-State involvement in national development of TAFE. For 1986 the Commonwealth will be providing general recurrent grants for fees reimbursement of $89.3m, an increase of $3.7m on the 1985 provision. Designated purpose recurrent grants for curriculum development, adult literacy programs, staff development, student counselling and other purposes will be maintained in real terms at the 1985 level of $37.5m and special equipment grants, to assist the TAFE system in responding to technological developments, will be maintained at $14.8m. State governments are responsible for the planning and provision of TAFE services and facilities, and for meeting the bulk of the TAFE sector's recurrent costs. The Commonwealth Government does, however, provide significant supplementary financial support for TAFE, amounting to some $285m in 1986. In total, Commonwealth funding accounted for about a quarter of the total of TAFE services and facilities in Australia.

The Government's decision to introduce the Australian traineeships system for young people will also have significant implications for TAFE which will be the main off-the-job training agency for the 75,000 traineeships to be supported by 1988-89. The traineeships will involve a Commonwealth contribution of $15.7m this financial year. A large proportion of these funds will be paid to the TAFE sector in addition to funds being provided under CTEC programs.

Specific Issues

The Government has accepted a number of other recommendations made by CTEC in its volume 3 report as follows:

Funding support for a university in Darwin will not be provided by the Commonwealth in the short term. The CTEC advice, endorsed by the Government, is that priority must be given to the further development of the Darwin Institute of Technology.

Concurrent with the proposed extension of the CTEC charter to cover cross-sectoral developments, a contribution will be made in 1986 and 1987 to the planning phase of the Western Melbourne Institute of Post-Secondary Education. This multi-sector institution will form the main element of a network of facilities to serve an area of Melbourne which has been severely disadvantaged in terms of access to tertiary education.

The Government accepts CTEC advice that there would be benefits from joint planning arrangements by the university and college of advanced education in each of Armidale and Newcastle. The Commission's recommendations for a combined funding allocation for each pair of institutions will be further considered when the Government has evaluated the effectiveness of joint planning arrangements for the 1988-90 triennium.

In response to a CTEC review of the system of governance for three non-government teachers colleges the Government has accepted the recommendation that the colleges be requested to develop proposals on future governance arrangements which allow for an increased level of accountability to the community. CTEC will hold further discussions with the institutions concerned.

The Government's commitment to growth in education provision as an essential element of its Priority One youth policies is amply demonstrated by the decisions taken in setting the guidelines leading to this latest report of CTEC. Continued growth is being attained in all sectors with concentration in the areas of greatest need. Over half the additional places in universities and CAEs will be in the more expensive science and technology based courses, particularly engineering, science and computer science. At least 20,500 additional enrolments will be achieved in higher education over the 1985-87 triennium. Legislation to implement these decisions will be introduced shortly. I move:

That the Senate take note of the statement.