University Places



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SpeakersSham-Ho The Hon Helen; Chadwick The Hon Virginia
BusinessQuestions Without Notice

UNIVERSITY PLACES

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: My question is directed to the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Minister for Tourism, and Minister Assisting the Premier. As a result of the four-year Commonwealth funding, how many young people are being denied access to university places in New South Wales?

The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: I know of the interest in equity and educational matters generally of the honourable member. As a matter of sheer equity, there is a significant and historical shortfall in the allocation of higher education places in New South Wales. There is concern nationwide of what is basically seen as a capping of funding for educational places at our universities. This has been a conscious policy of the Federal Government as demonstrated in its stop-start approach to educational policies in our nation. After many years of growth in the university sector the Federal Government realised
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that it had neglected the vocational training sector. Rather than seek a balance in the allocation of funds, it basically capped funding to the universities so that funding could be provided for technical and further education. Whilst that is very welcome, a form of crisis is now being reached in our universities. That is something noted nationwide and by my ministerial colleagues of all political persuasions in other States. I say all, because my Queensland colleague is equally as concerned about this and he had the Hon. Simon Crean visit Queensland recently. Queensland is seeking the support of New South Wales for a coordinated national campaign to try to have this matter redressed.

Specifically, New South Wales faces an even greater difficulty because not only are we constrained in terms of the available funds which have been capped, thanks to the policies of the Federal Government, but also we do not get our fair share. I have written to the Hon. Simon Crean about this. If one takes simple population figures, one sees that New South Wales has 33 per cent of the relevant population of Australia, and yet we get 30 per cent of the funding. That is not a problem that happened this year or last year - it is an historical aberration and problem. As a result, we have a compounding of shortfall of places which is now quite endemic and, in my view, has reached crisis proportions. As our young people face the higher school certificate examinations we know that the chances of their gaining the offer of a university place is well below the national average. New South Wales has a shortfall of equitable funding of about $125 million. Though New South Wales has 33 per cent of the national population, it receives 30 per cent of the operating grants. When that is translated into student places, New South Wales is approximately 13,000 places short.

The Hon. D. F. Moppett: Thirteen thousand places?

The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: Thirteen thousand places for the whole State. In New South Wales, 136 out of every 1,000 17- to 24-year-olds will gain a university place. If you happen to live in the Australian Capital Territory, 174 students out of every 1,000 places will secure a university place; and if you happen to be in Victoria, 161 students per 1,000 places obtain university places. They are telling figures, particularly when the problem recurs year after year. New South Wales and its young people are treated most inequitably. On a per capita basis for higher education funding New South Wales receives about $201 per head, Victoria receives $238, and Queensland receives $207. I share the nationwide concern about the overall availability of funds for higher education, but New South Wales is dealt a double blow. We are in a position of double jeopardy and we are being discriminated against. That might be a cute political game to play for some people, but the victims are young people and the price they pay is the access to higher education. The situation is shameful.