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Nelson misinforms on student places.



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Media Release Jenny MacklinMP

NELSON MISINFORMS ON STUDENT PLACES

Today’s media release from the Education Minister’s on university places contains several inaccuracies.

Deputy Leader of the Opposition Shadow Minister for Employment, Education & Training Federal Member for Jagajaga

Dr Nelson states that: “…the long term trend [in growth in student places] is encouraging.”

That statement is simply untrue. The number of Australian students commencing university is not rising - it is falling. This means that the total number of students will decline as the effects of fewer commencing students are felt.

According to Students 2003 (First half of the year) released by the Department of Education, Science and Training, the number of Australian students commencing an undergraduate degree fell for a second year in a row - from 161,459 in the first half of 2002 to 153,946 in the first half of 2003.

Commencing undergraduates are largely first year students, the majority of whom recently completed Year 12.

This year alone there was a drop of 4.7 per cent in the number of Australians starting a university degree.

Between 1995 and 2000, Australia had the second lowest increase in the rate of enrolment in universities in the OECD - only Turkey performed worse.

Opportunities for young people to get a university place are decreasing under the Howard Government and a smaller proportion of Australians are getting a place.

What’s more, that number of Australians starting university is expected to drop again in 2004.

The Howard Government is forcing universities to scale back nearly 15,000 HECS places in the next three years as it winds back its disastrous policy of funding over-enrolments on the cheap.

Under pressure, the Howard Government is forcing universities to cut back these places over the next three years but has not created enough fully funded growth places to make up the shortfall as over-enrolled places are cut.

Dr Nelson is also misleading when he states that the Howard Government’s university changes include “providing almost 32,000 fully funded places.”

Dr Nelson is including 25,000 existing but under-funded over-enrolments already in the system, that the Howard Government has finally agreed to fund properly. These will also be funded by Labor and are not new places. It is misleading for Dr Nelson to suggest that funding these places will do anything to address unmet demand.

Under Dr Nelson’s scheme, there will just 3,916 new Commonwealth funded full-time equivalent places for commencing first year students by 2008 (around 5,500 new full- and part-time places for commencing students).

Under Labor, there would be 15,234 new Commonwealth funded full-time equivalent places for commencing first year students by 2008 (around 21,500 new full- and part-time places for commencing students).

More info: Joanna Brent 1 September 2003