The Australian | 27 March 2013
New education portfolio minister Craig Emerson has endorsed Labor’s massive expansion of university education, arguing that a highly skilled workforce will be Australia’s competitive edge in the 21st century.
Calling it “a great reform of the Gillard era”, he says the government’s policy of funding a place for every Australian student that a university will accept successfully delivers on Gough Whitlam’s attempt to open higher education to disadvantaged young people.
Enrolments did not change then but they are now with growth in numbers of students from disadvantaged background and from rural and regional areas. They belong in university and we want more of them.
Emerson says that this does not diminish the role of vocational education, saying he wanted all potential students to have a choice.
IHowever, he “would not be drawn” on sector finances in the lead-up to the budget, saying in response to claims that vocational education was underfunded, “in an ideal world there would be more money for all but this is not the way it works”.
Emerson was an economic adviser to Prime Minister Bob Hawke at the time of the Dawkins reforms of the late eighties, which saw the introduction of HECS and the opening up of the university to mass participation.