A future for sale

Monday 21 August 2006 11:32 PM

Another August and another round of university open days. Two themes stand out for this parent at least, one standing in marked contrast to earlier years with my (slightly) older children. One is the evident passion and creativity exhibited by the lecturing staff, and hence the confidence that Australian universities deserve. The other is the inequity that has latterly taken hold in the higher education "market" (now tragically a more than apt term).

In two course information seminars, in separate institutions, the same announcement drew the same muffled outrage round the room. The clearly-in ENTER for 2006 Commonwealth-Supported entry to one degree program was 98. But for those with cash-in-hand for full fees ... "Out they go!" for 87. A 2 or 3 point waiver may be reasonable; 10 or 11 is unconscionable.

This appalling development in federal policy can only further entrench the already alarming gulf between rich and poor, in a "land of opportunity" once thought "egalitarian".  Are we heading for the class society of our British forbears, where the best opportunities went to the highest bidder, and resentment smouldered