Debate Motion: Too many people go to University


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A Sydney Ideas and Intelligence Squared Australia co-presention

Great Hall, University of Sydney
10 November, 2009

Poster, Too many people go to University

The motion 'too many people go to university' was lost at this debate.

Pre-debate poll: Undecided 19%, For 37%, Against 44%

Post–debate poll: Undecided 5%, For 24%, Against 71%


Access to university in Australia was once for the privileged few, yet is now a presumed right for all. But has the growth in graduate numbers and diverse university degree courses actually diminished the quality of a university degree?

At the same time, are universities really the best place for people who would be better employed acquiring a trade or learning the range of technical skills that Australia needs in order to compete in a globalised economy?

Or should we acknowledge that the current university model is the superior provider of a well-rounded educational experience, and so concentrate efforts on increasing the numbers of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds who aspire to attend university?

And what should be the role of the rapidly expanding private sector of higher education in addressing these questions?

The University of Sydney and IQ² Australia assembled a panel of expert speakers to debate the merits of the current system and explore the opportunity to genuinely boost Australia’s national productivity and performance as called by for the Australian Government.

Like all IQ² Australia debates, audience members were invited to join the floor debate, before determining the outcome of the debate with their vote.


Dr Simon Longstaff is Executive Director of St James Ethics Centre. Having won scholarships to study at Cambridge, he read for the degrees of Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy. He was inaugural President of The Australian Association for Professional & Applied Ethics and is a Director of a number of companies.


Steve Hind, a fourth year Combined Bachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Laws student, is the Director of Debates at the University of Sydney Union. He has won and been a top 10 individual speaker at the National and World Schools’ Debating Championships and the Australasian Intervarsity Championships, and was a finalist and top 5 individual speaker at the most recent World Intervarsity Championships.

Andrew Smith is Executive Director of the AustralianCouncil for Private Education and Training (ACPET) – the national industry association for independent providers of post-compulsory education and training. ACPET represents more than 1,100 organisations and enterprises delivering a range of higher and vocational education across all States and Territories.

Stephen Matchett is a former marketing director for Monash University and the University of Western Sydney. He is now a columnist and leader writer for The Australian and writes, when he can, on business education. His column on politics and culture has appeared in the Sydney Institute Quarterly for 20 years. He has a PhD in history from the University of Sydney.


Naomi Oreb is a member of the University of Sydney debating team and was named Best Individual Speaker at the 2009 World Universities Debating Championships held in Ireland. She completed a BA (Hons) in English literature in 2007 and is currently in her final year of a Bachelor of Laws.

Dr Michael Spence took up his appointment as Vice- Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney in July 2008. Dr Spence is an alumnus of the University, having graduated with First Class Honours in English, Italian and Law (BA (Hons)’85 and LLB (Hons)’87). Dr Spence is an internationally recognised leader in the field of intellectual property theory, with equally impressive administrative expertise and achievement.

Adam Spencer is a radio broadcaster and a graduate of the University of Sydney, with a First Class honours degree in Pure Mathematics. While at university, he was one of the world’s top-ranked debaters, reaching the final round of the World Universities Debating Championship three times (1990, 1992, 1996) and winning World’s Best Speaker (1996).

The University of Sydney Union is the top ranked debating institution in the world, ahead of Oxford, Cambridge and the entire Ivy League. The USU has won the World Championships twice since 2000 and has won the Australasian Championships three times since 2003.

Intelligence Squared Australia (IQ²) is an initiative of the St James Ethics Centre and John Rothnie-Jones. The initiative is based on the highly successful debate program, Intelligence Squared (IQ²) which began in 2002 in London.