Newcastle University enabling course questions ignored by Federal Government

THE Federal Government has ignored questions in Parliament about the impact of damaging proposals for university enabling programs which government ministers were told will have their greatest impact in the Hunter.

Minister Josh Frydenberg, representing Education Minister Simon Birmingham, did not respond to questions from Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon about the government’s knowledge of the significance of free enabling programs to help disadvantaged groups gain access to University of Newcastle places.

Mr Frydenberg said the government had supported a 23 per cent increase in higher education funding to 2021 and supported regional student hubs, but he did not refer to enabling programs such the University of Newcastle’s Open Foundation, Newstep or Yapug in a response to detailed Budget questions in Parliament on June 14.

The Government plans to cap places, introduce student fees of up to $3200 and open up enabling courses to private tender would lock disadvantaged students from tertiary education, Ms Claydon said.

The University of Newcastle is the oldest and largest provider of enabling progams in the country, she said.

“These programs have helped over 42,000 students gain entrance into higher education since 1974. In fact, today close to 20 per cent of the current student cohort at the University of Newcastle entered their degree through an enabling program,” Ms Claydon said.

“Make no mistake. The $3200 fee being proposed by the Turnbull government will repel tens of thousands of low-income and disadvantaged students from enrolling in enabling courses, especially since these courses, unlike diplomas or bachelor degree programs, do not result in any formal qualification.”

Open Foundation, Newstep and Yapug instead involve courses enabling people to qualify for degrees. The university’s enabling programs have been particularly successful in the area of Indigenous education. 

“It is no coincidence that Newcastle has 1000 Indigenous students enrolled. It is no coincidence that the University of Newcastle trains more than half of this nation's Indigenous doctors,” Ms Claydon said.  

“Those incredible successes are directly attributable to the decades of hard work and Newcastle's steadfast commitment to delivering equity in education through high-quality enabling programs.”

Indigenous law student Taylah Gray said the Yapug program gave her the skills to start her degree and plan a future working to address Indigenous disadvantage.

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