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“Further” Education

Quite recently the Federal Treasurer introduced some dramatic changes to the funding for our universities. These changes came with the clear INTENTION to dramatically increase the cost of studies and in the end to keep the cost of the studies leading to a degree with a practical link to a job at an affordable level.

In the discussions for and against this upheaval, the distinction was drawn between a course of study leading to a job (like science and mathematics, medicine and other health studies, architecture, education and nursing) and a course of study which did not make the student immediately job ready without further study (like arts, law and economics, creative arts and communications and society and culture).

I have three university degrees, the last achieved when I was 49, and all three at one time or another are responsible for enabling me to add to my taxable income. The first was paid from a scholarship, the second was paid by me and the third by the largesse of the Whitlam government.

When I was involved in the leather industry, I regularly met with a customer managing a shoe factory in Adelaide. He confirmed that he had a law degree but like many similarly qualified Australians he did not practice law. It is my understanding that a similar statistic applies to engineering graduates. The Graduate Outcomes Survey 2018 conducted by QILT (Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching) and funded by the Department of Education Skills and Training, demonstrated that only 57 percent of undergraduates who gained full time employment on leaving University felt that their qualification was important for that role and 39 percent reported that their skills and education were not fully employed.

When John Gorton was the Federal Minister for Education he introduced the concept of Colleges of Advanced Education. They sprang up like mushrooms but by 1990 as part of a host of national tertiary education reforms, they either became universities in their own right or merged into existing universities.

There are still vocational TAFE colleges but I’m sure there are thousands of graduates from those institutions who neither know nor care that that these are only colleges of “Technical and Further Education”.

What on earth is a University if not a place for “further” education.