Apr 16, 2003

Fewer Australians commence university


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 16 April 2003

New figures reveal that the number of Australians commencing university decreased between 2001 and 2002.

According to Students 2002: Selected Higher Education Statistics, released today by the Department of Education, Science and Training, the number of Australian students commencing university dropped by 1.1 per cent between 2002 and 2001.

That’s despite a 23 per cent increase in unmet demand for university places over the same period that saw between 14,000 and 20,000 qualified applicants turned away in 2002.

The number of commencing students dropped from 177,694 in 2001 to 175,666 in 2002.

That means that 2,000 qualified university applicants were robbed of student places.

Mums and dads will be outraged. Today’s figures show that the opportunities for their kids to get a university place are decreasing under the Howard Government.

Today’s figures also confirm the enormous blow-out in class sizes at Australia’s universities.

The figures confirm that between 1996 and 2002 the number of students attending Australian universities increased by 138,772. A companion report on staff numbers has revealed the number of teaching staff actually dropped by 2136 places over the same period.

And 55 per cent of the increase in student numbers has come from overseas students. While the number of overseas students studying at Australian universities has grown by 76,000 since 1996 (a 147 per cent increase), domestic student numbers have grown just 14 per cent, well below the average among developed countries.

The enormous blow-out in the ratio between university teaching staff and students is undermining the quality of education.

Lack of student-teacher contact, less individual attention, over-stretched teaching staff and compromised learning are becoming increasingly common features of our universities.

What’s more, most of the Howard Government’s student number growth has been achieved ‘on the cheap’. Most of the increase in domestic student numbers had come from a combination of universities over-enrolling students and growing numbers of full-fee paying students.

Since 1996, the Howard Government has ripped out more than $5 billion from Australian universities and cut over 20,000 fully funded student places.

The Howard Government must commit to urgent public investment in our universities and provide more fully funded university places to ensure both access and quality.