Serious breach of faith

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 October, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 October, 1993, 12:00am

SOME Asian medical students, including three from Hong Kong and one from Macau, are being seriously shortchanged by a number of Australian universities which so far have refused to offer them internships. These stints working as full-time hospital doctors are an essential part of medical training. Without them, students would graduate with medical degrees but would not be able to register, and practise, as doctors.

Overseas students at Australian universities generally pay fees (about $25,000 a year for medical students) and the universities' failure to offer these medical students the final part of their training is at least a breach of the implicit contract between universities and students. It is a serious breach of faith.

Hong Kong universities may try to make up for this failing, by offering internships to local students affected. But that is not the point: the Australian universities should be fulfilling their obligations.

Australian educational institutions are making concerted efforts to attract fee-paying students from Asia (in part because most Australian students do not pay full fees but only make a small contribution to costs). A failure as serious as this will set back their promotional efforts.

Here lies some hope for the students concerned. The Australian Education Centre in Hong Kong is acutely aware of the problem (and undoubtedly just as aware of its potential for embarrassment). The issue will be discussed by Australian health officials next month and they equally will be anxious to find places for the students - in short, to make the universities meet their students' needs.

Surely in a country with many medical schools, and many more teaching hospitals, places can be found for a virtual handful of students. If not, lasting damage will be done to the standing in Asia of Australian education.