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Knowledge rich, knowledge poor: the distribution of opportunities for higher learning in metropolitan Perth

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Opportunities for a university education are 250 times more available in the city's inner and western suburbs than they are in the east. Where the east (providing home to some 500,000 people and well over one third of Perth's population) provides just one university place for each 5,000 residents, the city's west enjoys the benefit of one place per 20. In the inner west provision is richer still: one place per four residents. Nor does this grossly skewed geography of higher learning opportunities relate meaningfully to demand or ability: almost one third of Perth's university students have eastern postcodes attached to their permanent home addresses.

It is not difficult to see where the new information economy is likely to be taking root in Perth, or where globalisation's winners are most likely to work and live. Modern cities like Perth which gradually became more equal places over much of the last half century are unlikely to continue this trend as we move more fully into the post-industrial 21st century and become a more fully-fledged 'knowledge nation'. And the evidence of unravelling equality is already clearly emerging: over the past 30 years, the community's sense of an acceptable level of unemployment has risen 3 or 4 fold, there are more chronically underemployed households and, nationally, almost a million children are living in households which have no wage earner.

If it does not already, Perth will soon benefit from $1 billion in direct higher learning expenditures annually. This is an investment working for the almost exclusive benefit of communities in Perth's richer Western suburbs. On a straight per capita basis, a good third of this annual investment--and the further investment and spending such investment triggers--should be going into eastern regional centres. At the moment the east is exporting not just its brainpower but the money it spends on the further enhancement of that brainpower. It can ill afford to do either.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Social Research Consultant. [email protected]

Publication date: 2003-12-01

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