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Expanding opportunities in higher education.



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MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, TRAINING AND YOUTH AFFAIRS EXPANDING OPPORTUNITIES IN HIGHER EDUCATION

"A re-elected Howard Government will continue to both expand opportunities in higher education and support world standard research within our universities," the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Dr David Kemp, said today when launching the Coalition’s higher education policy, Investing in Higher Education.

"We have used our time in government to consult widely with the sector and build a fully costed and practical plan for our universities and research communities," Dr Kemp said.

The Coalition will implement its Innovation Action Plan, Backing Australia’s Ability. Over the five years from 2001, the Coalition will:

provide more than 28,000 new university places over 5 years through an additional $198.3 million. Priority will be given to the areas of information and communications technology, mathematics and science as well as for additional university places at regional universities and regional campuses. These places include those from the Coalition’s regional universities and campuses initiatives;

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increase the number of postgraduate course work places by around 30,000 through HECS style, interest free, income-contingent loans, the Postgraduate Education Loans Scheme (PELS), facilities to Australian citizens and some Australian permanent residents;

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establish 25 new Federation Fellowships each year for the next five years each worth $225,000 per annum. The Federation Fellowships will not only help to attract Australia’s best and brightest home and to keep them here, but they will also demonstrate that Australia values quality research and ideas;

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invest $46.5 million over five years from 2001 to develop and support a world class Biotechnology Centre of Excellence. It will attract leading Australian and overseas researchers and provide an excellent environment in which to develop and retain Australia’s leading researchers and bio-entrepreneurs of tomorrow;

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invest $129.5 million over five years to help establish the ICT Centre of Excellence. The Centre will provide a research environment, which will not only nurture excellent local researchers, but will also attract world-class researchers from overseas;

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double the funding available for specific research projects in both basic and applied/collaborative research funded by the Australian Research Council, to substantially improve grant application success rates and average grant size ;

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double the number of Australian Postdoctoral Fellowships from 2002 from 55 to 110; ●

improve the competitiveness of researchers’ salaries from 2002, to achieve better parity between salaries payable to research-only and research-and-teaching academics; ●

provide an additional $246 million over five years to upgrade the systemic infrastructure in universities to support world-class research and research training. Funding will be provided on a competitive basis for innovative approaches that link or expand access to shared facilities, or high priority investments that will bring sector-wide strategic benefits;

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provide $337 million over five years through the Research Infrastructure Block Grants Scheme for research infrastructure in universities. This initiative will enable infrastructure for research projects to be maintained at the rate of twenty cents for each dollar of competitive research grants funding; and

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provide to universities and public sector research agencies $78.7 million over five years to address the gap between promising scientific discoveries and commercialisation. ●

"The Coalition plan will expand undergraduate and graduate places to create the equivalent of four average sized universities. Dr Kemp said.

In addition, the Coalition is announcing two new initiatives. We will:

provide the same arrangements as apply currently to the University of Notre Dame to Bond University, the Melbourne College of Divinity, Christian Heritage College and Tabor College by including them within the framework of the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 (HEFA) while maintaining their ability to have fee-paying students. This will have no impact upon the underlying cash balance.

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commission a comprehensive and far -reaching review of Australia’s veterinary profession to address the shortage of rural-based large livestock veterinarians, with particular attention to impediments within the education system which have contributed to the decline.

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assist in the establishment of the General Sir John Monash Awards by committing seed funding to the General Sir John Monash Foundation of $250,000 in this fiscal year. ●

"The Coalition’s policies and initiatives have already created a roadmap for the way forward in Australian Higher Education, with well considered, practical, fully funded initiatives which build on Australia’s strengths and promote the intellectual, professional and innovative development of its people and its academic institution.

"In contrast, Knowledge Nation is a pot-holed path with no destination, charted by guesswork, deliberately based on negative suppositions and statistics well past their use-by-date," Dr Kemp said.

Access to Universities

The Coalition understands some higher education providers are established specifically to address particular needs and aspirations which often, though not always, reflect religious convictions.

A re-elected Coalition Government will provide more students with access to higher education that targets their specific needs by placing several other teacher training institutions in the same position as the University of Notre Dame. The Coalition believes that access to public grants and subsidies should be determined only on the basis that a provider

is established by Statute and included on the Australian Qualifications Framework register as a ●

self-accrediting higher education institution or has been rigorously assessed as being capable of delivering educational outcomes of a prescribed standard and of assuring the Government of the probity of their governance arrangements and their continuing financial health.

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The application of this principle would provide concrete assistance and a more level playing field for those in the community who establish alternative institutions to meet their needs. It would also provide a potentially sounder and more equitable base to assure the supply of suitably qualified teachers in private schools with a religious mission.

A third Howard Government will provide the same arrangements as apply currently to the University of Notre Dame to Bond University, the Melbourne College of Divinity, Christian Heritage College and Tabor College by including them within the framework of the Higher Education Funding Act 1988 (HEFA) while maintaining their ability to have fee-paying students.

This means students at Bond University, the Melbourne College of Divinity, Christian Heritage College and Tabor College will be eligible for PELS loans for non-research postgraduate study. 

Shortage of rural veterinarians

Veterinarians make an important contribution to our rural economy and to protecting our "clean, green status".   Unfortunately, many rural areas are not attracting veterinarians who often prefer more lucrative small animal practice in cities.

Compounding the problem is the withdrawal of state services - some state governments have cut back the number of veterinarians they employ by as much as 50% over the last 10 years. 

 The Coalition Government believes that a joint effort by governments, industry, the profession and the community is needed to resolve these issues. We need to know - not guess - the root causes of the problem and where the shortage is acute. We need to devise practical solutions which work for the communities most affected. We need a permanent solution, not a "quick fix".

The Coalition will commission a comprehensive and far -reaching review in conjunction with peak livestock industry groups of Australia’s veterinary profession to address the shortage of rural-based large livestock veterinarians, with particular attention to impediments within the education system which have contributed to the decline.

General Sir John Monash Awards

The General Sir John Monash Foundation aims to promote Australia’s heritage and values and encourage high academic achievement and the pursuit of knowledge.

The Foundation hopes to establish the Monash awards as Australia’s equivalent of the Rhodes Scholarships and the American Fulbright program.

Allowing Australian postgraduate students to study abroad in any recognized field of study at the world’s leading universities in Asia, North America and in Europe, while at the same time promoting international exchange by inviting foreign postgraduates to study at Australian universities, a package of up to $50,000 per annum for a term of three years will be granted to cover stipend, travel and fees.

The Monash Foundation will establish an endowment fund and seek contributions from government, the corporate sector and private individuals.

To assist in the establishment of the awards, a Coalition government is committing seed funding of $250,000 in this fiscal year.

31 October 2001