'Prejudice' fears over inquiry

January 17, 1997

The Australian government has appointed the English former headmaster of an elite Sydney private school to chair a Dearing-style inquiry into the future of higher education.

Roderick West, who has a divinity degree from the University of London, retired from Sydney's Trinity Grammar School last year after 21 years as head.

Education unions, government schools, university students and Aborigines are not represented on the inquiry committee, which comprises six conservative senior academics and business people, including a former education minister, and only one woman.

Mr West immediately outraged academics by saying that education and training were "separate". Union leaders said the implication that universities exclusively provided education while training took place elsewhere in the tertiary sector showed appalling ignorance.

Carolyn Allport, National Tertiary Education Union president, said: "It is unfortunate that the chair of the review has a limited background in higher education. Unless he learns very rapidly, old-fashioned prejudices may play a part in the review's deliberations."

Education minister Amanda Vanstone said: "I have taken particular care over the selection of a chair and committee members to ensure the review has a broad range and balance of expertise."

But the National Union of Students said the committee's terms of reference were a "poorly-disguised code" by a government intent on cutting public funding of higher education.

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