Educating the masses

Crikey readers talk MPs' free ride at uni and whether the Customs Department should start wearing eye patches.

Who should get a free education?

Professor Douglas Kirsner writes: Re. “A floral tribute to the federal MPs who got a free ride at uni” (Friday). Asserting there’s hypocrisy involved in cabinet ministers who benefited from Whitlam’s “free education” increasing  the requirement of current students to pay back increased fees is a cheap shot and comparing apples with oranges. As always, a historical perspective is important. The massive cost of mass education cannot be compared with the relatively low cost of educating the few. Whitlam’s “free education” was free only for the small elite who could make it to universities. The “free education” for the lucky few cost the budget a relatively small amount. It was Labor’s John Dawkins who revolutionised higher education in Australia in 1987 by moving to mass higher education, which, of course, costs enormously more money. To help finance this Neville Wran innovated the idea of HECS, where students after graduation having reached a given earning capacity would start paying back a proportion of the costs of their education.

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5 thoughts on “Educating the masses

  1. Ian Neering

    Doug Kirsner reckons it’s a cheap shot to accuse govt members of hypocrisy over their free education. Maybe he’s right. Not because of the undocumented cost differences he attempts to cite but simply because of the fact that their free tertiary education was an accident of timing. Not their fault.

    He advocates a historical perspective and cites the “revolutionary” actions of John Dawkins in moving to mass higher education.

    Sorry Doug, I think you need to re-read that history. In amalgamating the Colleges of Advanced Education into the university system he sowed the seeds of our current problems with regard to our current shortage of skill sets, debased the educational standards of degrees conferred by our universities and reduced the scope of our universities as centers of academic excellence in favour of vocational training center.

  2. klewso

    They want to deprive others of the advantage they had.

  3. Jaybuoy

    it’s amazing how cruel people will be if the pretext is drownings at sea…

  4. Guy Rundle

    Doug Kirsner is consistent in at least one way. He virulently criticises the Whitlam government here, just as he did in the 1970s. One small difference – in the 1970s, he was criticised Whitlam from the left, berating it for not introducing full socialism, and assailing the education system as a tool of indoctrination by the capitalist state. It’s an education!

  5. CML

    @ Professor Kirsner – If free education is not ‘doable’ in a wealthy country like ours, how come the Scandinavian and other European countries can manage to do it?
    Oh! of course, everyone pays their fair share of taxation in those countries, unlike what the rich get away with in Oz!
    I think you are looking to further disadvantage the wrong end of society, Professor!!

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