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Salient. Victoria University Students Newspaper. Volume 38, No 1. March 4, 1975

The Fabled Tertiary Bursary

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The Fabled Tertiary Bursary

The Labour Party has long had intentions of de-emphasising the importance laid on Universities in our education system. Agreed, before the Governemnt's election in 1972, Universities were allocated too much of the education budget, leaving other fields of education sadly lacking. However, despite the change of emphasis, Universities still (and to a markedly Jess extent, Polytechs and Training Colleges, to whom the Tertiary Bursary would extend) are seen as the important goal at the end of the education ladder — a goal that is remarkably uneven in its spread across society. We print elsewhere in this article a summary of estimated student costs this year. The point made there is that middle class parents can more easily afford to help their kids through University (or Polytech, where the value of bursaries is incredibly much lower than ours) than working class parents.

A pattern almost conspiratorial appears. Not only are working class kids discriminated against in schools (as is apparent from the far lower School C passes in schools in working class areas when compared with more affluent ones), but those lucky enough to pass this barrier may be unable to attend University through the sheer finances of it.

This is the real reason for supporting the Tertiary Bursary proposal. Not just because it gives more money to present students (though the numbers trying to get by on inadequate incomes are far larger than many think) but because it opens the University's gates to more students - students who now cannot afford to attend or would have their academic work suffer through part-time jobs. It is ironic and revealing that a Labour Government doesn't do something about this situation.

There is also something very perturbing about the way the negotiations have gone. The chronology describes how the Department's proposals have changed between 'white paper' and 'position paper' and 'draft outline'. The chameleons are not just in the Department however — as is seen from a point from the interview with Lisa Sacksen.

Mr Amos' comments on the 'paper' suggest he doesn't agree with everything in it and discussions are still at a rudimentary stage. Yet:
a.in a letter of August 22 to me Mr Amos said:'the Government ...is working towards the early introduction of a standard bursary scheme, for students in continuing education institutions'.
b.in his October decision Mr Amos said the scheme had been deferred 'in view of the current economic situation'

Both of these statements imply the discussions were well advanced you can't have an 'early introduction' of a still largely undiscussed scheme and you can only defer a coherent plan. What is the Minister playing at?

For my part, I think Mr Amos is in a rather difficult position. He has tried to introduce reforms in education - less stress on academic achievement, the Education Development Conference, and greater pre-school education. One can be cynical about the possible results of these movements, but the ideas for change were there. Yet little has emerged - due often to administrative problems, or possibly the lack of influence education in general appears to have in Cabinet. More often it seems to stem from financial considerations or the conservatism of the system being dealt with. The influence of conservative economic theory (particularly in the cases of Messers Rowling and Tizard) often putting cost considerations over social ones, reinforced by a decidedly socially conservative Labour Cabinet has undoubtedly frustrated many of Mr Amos's and other Ministers' plans for social change. It is the whole Cabinet rather than just Mr Amos who must bear the responsibility for the muck up over the Tertiary Bursary.

And beyond them, one could perhaps start urging the need to change a class system that allows only select groups to send their children to University, or the need to organise an anarchic economic system that allows such anomalies as inflation to cause so many social and financial problems. It's not so easy to change society - but through pushing such issues as the Standard Tertiary Bursary we can both make things tangibly better for ourselves and future students and develop the understanding and organisation necessary for more fundamental changes.

- Anthony Ward.