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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2646

Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) (Minister for Education) - I wish briefly to answer the questions of the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke). The honourable gentleman's history of the University of Western Australia is not correct. The University of Western Australia was deliberately made unfree in 1958 or 1959. That was achieved by a system whereby the amount of money that the University raised itself attracted Commonwealth and State grants. In the period when the University of Western Australia was free a good many people were admitted to the university who were not able to gain admittance at universities in the eastern States. That immediately had the effect, for instance, of getting a higher proportion of teacher graduates among them science graduates and so on, in the Western Australian Department of Education.

I do not have any analysis of the proportion of students from poorer families. I myself would have been an instance of that because my father was part-time unemployed when I was at the University of Western Australia. But the free system undoubtedly allowed many to be admitted to the university who could not gain admittance to universities in the eastern States. There was a different social climate for a large part of that period. The honourable gentleman will recall that before the war only 7 per cent of pupils completed secondary education. As far as I can remember, that was not tremendously affected in Western Australia. The other question that the honourable gentleman asked was about the method of gaining admitance. Universities are autonomous. Some of the faculties have quotas. Before long I hope to produce the Government's reaction to another Karmel report, the Karmel Report on Medical Education. We shall be trying to make more places available for medical education, but that is yet to come.

The universities themselves will have to react to the situation. I do not know whether the fact that university education will be free will lead to a great wave of additional students being admitted. Many faculties could absorb these. Otherwise, I suppose each university will make its own adjustment. It might raise its standards for all I know. I should think that the tendency will be for a shifting round of students. If a student cannot get into the University of Sydney he may go to Armidale. I believe that this sort of thing will take place. But we will not be making those decisions. Universities, colleges of advanced education and teachers colleges are autonomous institutions. They will be confronted with a situation. I do not imagine that there will be a great additional wave of students immediately. The institutions will be confronted with a situation. We hope to speed the construction of tertiary institutions.

As the honourable gentleman knows, Griffith and Murdoch Universities are now in the proces of construction. I hope that will be speeded up. Other universities and colleges of advanced education may have to be provided. Those institutions will make the adjustments that are necessary. We will not dictate policy to them. Constitutionally we cannot. I suppose that we could to the Australian National University, but we do not. We constitutionally cannot do it in the States. Again, the money that goes to universities will be States grants earmarked to be passed on to universities. The legislative authority over universities will still be State authority. As far as we are concerned, the universities will be autonomous and will make their own decision.

Proposed expenditure agreed to. Progress reported.

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