NTEU Media Release: Increase in disadvantaged students welcome but who will teach them?
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) welcomes government figures showing a surge in students from low socio economic backgrounds attending university, but cautions more academic staff are needed to ensure they receive a quality education.
“The 19 per cent increase in university enrolments from students from disadvantaged backgrounds that has occurred since 2009 is a significant achievement that reflects very positively on the Government’s ambitious social participation agenda,” said NTEU Assistant Secretary Matthew McGowan
“But it is important to caution this is part of a much wider increase student numbers.”
“While we welcome the transformation of higher education from elite to a more mass system, we are very concerned about the lack of a comparable rise in staffing levels.”
“This puts the quality of education students could receive at risk.”
“According to the Government’s own figures, the number of full time equivalent academic staff rose from 38,964 to 41,091 between 2009 and 2011, an increase of only 5.25 per cent.”
“The growing disparity between student numbers and the growth in staff has significant implications in terms of increasing student to staff ratios and staff workloads.”
“The situation is even more serious when we break the figures down by academic classifications.”
“Teaching only academics have increased 91.6 per cent. We estimate the vast majority of these academics are casual staff.”
“Despite their skill and commitment, casual academics do not get the support or resources from their institutions to deliver high-quality of teaching, especially for students who may need more help to get up to speed academically.”
“The Government’s figures show that the number of teaching and research staff, the majority of whom are employed on a secure ongoing basis, increased from 26,610 to 26,741, a growth of about 131 full time equivalent staff.”
“There is an urgent need for government and universities to focus on workforce strategies to ensure those students who do get to university can continue to be confident of getting a quality education,” said McGowan.
For information and comment
Matthew McGowan, NTEU Assistant Secretary: 0417 054 110
Andrew Nette, NTEU Media Officer: 0431 217 131