WEL 1998 Election Form Guide

Higher Education

This is another area in which there are some clear differences between the policies of the major contenders for government. The conditions in universities are creating sufficient concern to the Australian Vice Chancellors so they are advertising their woes and requesting more funding as part of the election campaign. Women have done well in terms of overall access, but the changes are already impacting on mature age students where women are often discouraged, and at the fee paying post graduate level. The distribution of higher education qualifications in the populations is just reaching an appropriate level of gender parity. Women earn less in their work lives because of the types of jobs they do, the qualifications they have, and because they are still over-represented in lower level jobs. We are concerned that increasing costs of qualifications will discourage from seeking higher education.

We are also concerned that changes to Abstudy will further increase the gaps between education of indigenous and non indigenous Australians. The reductions in funds for tutoring, the lesser resources for on site programs for isolated workers, the lower levels of repayment are already affecting participation rates. We are worried about the claims that special programs are unfair, and urge the recognition that Aboriginal disadvantage deserves special attention.

1993-96 under Labor +2

Positives

Ongoing commitment to strengthen the higher education sector in recognition of the benefits to society as a whole and to individuals. Along with this, was a commitment to equity, diversity and quality in universities, which was underpinned by target funding. Some growth in overall government outlays for higher education, but not related to student number or inflation. Continued small increases in female participation rates, especially in postgraduate study. Under quality assurance program, injection of funds based on improvements. Established national equity and diversity program with targeted funding - developed comprehensive set of equity goals and objectives. Introduced Student Organisation Support (SOS) program to fund student unions in Victoria and WA after VSU (voluntary student unionism) introduced in those States. Continued funding for childcare, including University childcare, through operational subsidy and fee relief for low income families.

Negatives

Deregulation of postgraduate fees for professional courses (except nursing and teaching). Reductions in funding per equivalent full-time student place (source AVCC 1998). Enterprise bargaining introduced - less protection for female employees. No supplementation to universities to compensate for salary increases.

1996-98 under the Liberal/National Party Coalition -3

Positives

Negatives

Slowdown in increases in overall outlays for higher education, and in estimated increase in student numbers, with focus on removing publicly funded postgraduate places from the system (4% cut in previously announced operating grants to universities in 1997-98, despite expectations of increased student numbers, done largely at the expense of postgraduate places - and a further 2% cut to be sustained in 1999-2000.

No supplementation provided for university salary increases which together with cuts means actual budget cuts for teaching. Abolished targeted quality and equity funding, reducing incentives for improvement (while maintaining campus-based quality improvement plans).

Substantially increased HECS across the board and introduced differential HECS under assumptions of different financial outcomes that do not necessarily apply to women.

Reduced income threshold for repayment of HECS to well below average weekly earnings (a move most likely to disadvantage part-time workers, many of whom are women (eg Aboriginal school aides).

Increased the age of eligibility for Austudy from 22 to 25, thereby limiting access to education to young women (and men). As women tend to leave home on average at younger ages to men, this pushes them back into the home, after they may have felt it time to leave.

Introduced local undergraduate fee-paying option for universities.

Election Promises by Labor +3

Positives

Negatives

Have not made commitment to reinstate all lost funding, only 25%, or to provide supplementation for the next round of salary negotiations. Discussion of voucher-style learning accounts for adult education.

Election Promises by Liberal/National Party Coalition -2

Positives

Policy to be announced

Negatives

Forward estimates for 1998-2000 triennium reveal further 2% cut in operating grants and over 50% reduction in research infrastructure funding. .No salary increase supplementation to be provided despite further claims Minister for Education supports voluntary student unionism, which would remove from campuses key advocacy and support services to students in need. GST will affect some education related costs eg books.

SCORE Labor +5
Coalition -5

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Page created 20 September 1998; last updated 20 September 1998