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Thursday, 22 November 1973
Page: 2068

Senator McMANUS (Victoria) (Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party) - The Australian Democratic Labor Party will support the Student Assistance Bill. It has supported every progressive step in education which has ever been offered to the Senate. I want to make only 2 brief points. In recent years there has been a great deal of criticism from certain members of the student body- I emphasise the word 'certain' because the great majority have not been involved- who suggest that people of our generation are out of date in our ideas, that we are not progressive in our views and that we are a barrier against progress. I merely point out that in the days when I went to university 40 scholarships were given for the whole of Victoria. The generation which a certain group of people like to attack these days has brought about the situation where there are now scholarships and maintenance for practically every student who has a reasonable justification for going to a university. I suggest to these highly critical young students that they ought to be grateful to the people of our generation because we have provided them with advantages which were not available to us. Today they are on velvet because of what was done for them by the generation which some of them like so much to criticise.

The other thing I wish to say is that I am always pleased to vote for these measures but I always have a feeling of disappointment that every time they come up I can see no indication of any move in our universities to ensure that every student who has these advantages placed at his disposal will really be worthy of them or will really profit from them. A lot of people, like Sir Philip Baxter, have pointed out the extraordinarily large number of students who fail to make the grade in the first year, the extraordinary number of students who do not seem to get anywhere. I have noticed that Sir Philip Baxter and others have said that surely it is necessary, if we are to see that money is properly spent, to initiate some system by which we can be reasonably sure that the student who goes to a university and who will be provided for in these ways really ought to be going to university and not seeking his education in some other direction. No attempt has been made by universities to solve the problem of a proper system of examining prospective students to ensure that they are in the right place. Why have we not some system whereby we can determine within reasonable limits whether a student should go to a university, a college of advanced education or into some form of vocational training? Very little is being done in this direction.

We still have the situation where thousands of students in this country go to universities not because they particularly want to go there, not because they are particularly well equipped and not because they know what they are going to do while they are there. They go to a university because the daughter of so and so and the son of so and so down the street go to a university. The parents would be downgraded in the eyes of the neighbours if their son or daughter did not go to a university, too. People more qualified than myself who have been highly placed officers of our universities, have repeatedly said that the big problem these days is determining whether a particular student ought to go to a university. In my view nothing significant is being done to solve that problem. I always have a feeling of uneasiness when I vote for these Bills. I think to myself: 'Will we get value?' There is considerable doubt whether a number of these students will be particularly happy at a university and whether we will get value out of their going to university. I hope that something can be done to get a proper system of evaluating prospective entrants to each university. Until we do so we will spend thousands and thousands of dollars and on the testimony of people who are leading officers in our universities a lot of this money will just be wasted.

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