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Seven key turning points in Australian higher education policy 1943-1999

Laming, M.M. (2001) Seven key turning points in Australian higher education policy 1943-1999. Post-Script, 2 (2). pp. 239-273.

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Abstract

No one would question that there have been changes in the Australian federal government’s understanding of the value and function of higher education since 1943 when the Curtin government first moved to provide financial support for tertiary education as part of a comprehensive post-war reconstruction package. However, the ways in which successive governments have perceived the value of education, and then translated their values into policy, and the effects of these policy values on the attitudes and expectations of young adults approaching the transition from secondary to tertiary education, have not been examined in detail. My research is intended to remedy this omission. This paper, which provides a context for my research into student values and attitudes, outlines seven distinct phases or eras in federal government policy from 1943 until the end of the Howard government’s first term in office in 1999. Each of these originates in a clearly defined change, or turning point, in the dominant political discourse about the nature and value of university education. In summary, these are: (1) 1943 to 1949: the Curtin and Chifley governments regard university education as crucial aspect of post-war reconstruction and national development; (2) 1949 to 1972: the Menzies government, and subsequent Liberal governments, promote growth of the university sector as a means of personal advancement within the expanding economy; (3) 1972 to 1975: the Whitlam government interprets university education as a force for social transformation; (4) 1975 to 1983: a partial return to an elite view of university education and the promotion of the TAFE sector as a source of skilled workers; (5) 1983 to 1987: the Hawke government adopts a compromise position encouraging limited growth and promoting equity while rejecting the transformative nature of Whitlam’s model; (6) 1987 to 1996: the Hawke/Keating government embraces the view that university education is an integral part of the economy, and that a degree is a consumer benefit for which the individual should pay. The trend towards user-pays continues following the election of a Liberal government led by Prime Minister John Howard; (7) 1996: Prime Minister Howard appoints David Kemp as Minister for Education precipitating a series of changes to higher education policy that intensify the economic rationalist approach to university education.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Publisher: University of Melbourne. Faculty of Education
Copyright: © 2001 Faculty of Education
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/17614
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