Michael Spence

is the vice chancellor of the University of Sydney.

It’s been just a bit comical seeing his public road-to-Damascus moment about the “bamboo ceiling” – now that following his remarriage after the tragic early death of his first wife he has a child who might possibly come up against it one day.

Today Spence is reported complaining about the immorality of subsidising the costs of medical tuition for Australian students with the profit from international fee-paying students.  He says:

Australian universities “tax the poor families of Sichuan to subsidise the education of kids who went to Kings to become doctors and charge people a lot of money.”

That seems a bit colourful to me.  Plenty of medical students come from James Ruse rather than from Kings.

There is a university system in China, for which entry is competitive but which you can reasonably say is open to poor students of high ability.  General view in China would be that Australia is where the (relatively) dumb and rich ones come, and as to who the rich are and how they are rich there are plenty more views about that.  According to those views, maybe you could describe the origin of their wealth as a “tax” on the poor in a very loose sense.

Most Chinese would be astounded to learn that the Chinese students studying in Australia came from “the poor families of Sichuan.”

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