Poor and more talented students overlooked for PM's daughter

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott's presence at his daughter's graduation ceremony from an exclusive design school in Sydney "took precedence" over the occasion, a former student said on Thursday.

Frances Abbott graduated from the Whitehouse Institute of Design in February this year, after receiving a $60,000-odd scholarship from management to attend the design college.

But the scholarship was awarded to the Prime Minister's daughter after Institute chairman Les Taylor, a Liberal Party donor; spoke to senior management about her potential as student.

Mr Taylor was also a personal friend of Mr Abbott's, although all those involved have said Ms Abbott earned the scholarship on merit and the quality of her application and art portfolio.

No evidence has been presented to date that refutes the merit or otherwise of the scholarship being awarded to Ms Abbott.

However, statements on the institute's website show the only scholarship publicly available to students is a post-graduate opportunity, while the undergraduate scholarship provided to Ms Abbott was not published.

APN Newsdesk has spoken to two students who attended the college at the same time as Ms Abbott, both of whom questioned whether the scholarship should have gone to more deserving students.

One former student, who asked not to be named, said there were others who came from struggling backgrounds who should have been given a chance to apply.

"When calling something a scholarship, I think it should really go to someone with amazing skills, or should be open to those who can't afford the course," the student said.

The student said at an official graduating ceremony this year, all parents were told to arrive at 4.30pm sharp to attend the ceremony, but Mr Abbott and his wife Margie arrived late.

"My parents took the early train to be there on time, but it started 10 to 15 minutes late because Mr Abbott had to march down the centre aisle and plant his wife in the front row," the student said.

"I just got that sense of 'I'm so much better than you'."

While other students have confirmed they were not told about the scholarship being available, but none were willing to speak publicly or have their names quoted.

It is understood there is no specific requirement for Mr Abbott or other federal MPs to disclose scholarships or similar programs being provided to their children.

Response was sought from both Whitehouse Institute of Design and the Prime Minister's Office before filing.

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