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National Union of Students slams tertiary reforms in federal budget as 'horrifying'

"The government is just being practical in these things". ANU has embraced the government's changes.

"The government is just being practical in these things". ANU has embraced the government's changes.

The national student union has condemned the federal budget’s shake-up of tertiary funding as ''horrifying'' despite the changes being embraced by Australia’s leading university, the ANU. 

The president of the National Union of Students, Deanna Taylor, said she was ''horrified but not entirely surprised'' by the government’s most significant reform to the HECS scheme since its introduction in 1989.

Treasurer Joe Hockey’s first budget announced restrictions on course costs will be scrapped while the amount of funding for university courses will decline from 2016. Graduates will also repay their HELP debts once they earn $50,638, rather than $53,345

But Ms Taylor said the changes mean a generation of high-school students nearing the end of their studies will have to reassess whether university is a viable option, given their family's financial situation.

''The deregulation of fees is without a doubt going to leave students with a sharp increase in fees, which will hit disadvantaged students the hardest,'' she said.

Ms Taylor said given the reforms announced in the budget, we may see more students paying in excess of $100,000 to receive a university education.

''We’re slowing moving towards United States models of tertiary education, which most people would agree is not the shining beacon of access to education,'' she said. ''Obviously, we want our universities to be world class but the way to do that is not to punish disadvantaged students.''

Ms Taylor said there were some ''very big question marks'' over the government’s promised scholarships for disadvantaged students and on access. The budget details 20 per cent of additional revenue raised through increased fees will be used to fund scholarships for disadvantaged students.

''The scholarships that the government has been talking about will not nearly make up for the increases in student fees and it remains to be seen how that equity scheme will actually work,'' she said.

But ANU Vice-Chancellor Ian Young said ''the government is just being practical in these things''.

''We have seen over the last four years the demand-driven system has grown the cost to the budget significantly, now either the taxpayer is going to have to pay that or the student is going to have to pay that or the system will become impoverished ... A slight change to the mix of what the taxpayer and the student affords is probably a good thing,'' he said.

ANU Students' Association president Cameron Wilson said disadvantaged students are already under-represented at the university and the budget reforms are likely to exacerbate inequality.

''Despite the equity scholarship fig leaf, disadvantaged students will have more and more trouble accessing university due to ballooning costs and dropping graduate incomes,'' he said. ''We call on ANU to carefully consider and consult with students who are already crushed under huge student debts. ANU should have the best minds and not the best-paying minds.''

60 comments

  • Of course Ian Young would agree with the changes - he hasn't done a very good job with the money he's had. ANU used to be ranked 16th in the world, and while he's been in the top office, they have dropped to 27th, back up from where they were a couple of years ago.

    The fact is that the US is not a viable model for our tertiary education. We shouldn't be striving for a class structure that means that a lot of people won't be able to pay back their loans - it's not like they're giving out jobs to graduates, either.

    Commenter
    Mads
    Date and time
    May 14, 2014, 8:49AM
    • What lengths will this government go to to entrench an uneducated underclass that can never escape from the family it was born into?

      "Level playing fields" are great if mummy and daddy's money pays the way.

      US style working poor and more social division seems to be the over-arching goal of this government.

      Make yourself feel superior by denying the advantages you had to others?

      So much for a meritocracy - education for the rich and stupid. We'll have hereditary Peers next!

      Commenter
      Get real
      Location
      wA
      Date and time
      May 14, 2014, 11:05AM
    • The US provides no models worth emulating at any level of education.

      Commenter
      Blackchook
      Date and time
      May 14, 2014, 5:26PM
    • I completed my degree the year they introduced fees, so I was in the last intake to get a free degree. And I wonder if I would have done it if I'd had to pay. Probably not. You have to be pretty sure of what you're doing to pay that much, whereas, at that age, you're just going through whatever door opens. You might do a year of this or a year of that first. I did history for year, then was bored with that and did economics instead.

      But all of it was to my benefit. A year of uni isn't wasted even if you don't go on to complete the degree. Education is always developmental, regardless of what you do with it later.

      I'm of the opinion that health and education should be free.

      Everything they study will somehow be put to use. Directly, or indirectly.

      Their world should remain a world of endless possibilities.

      Commenter
      sarajane
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      May 15, 2014, 6:27AM
  • What do we know about those so-called scholarships for disadvantaged students? Does anybody believe that this selfish, self centred, give to the rich and take from the poor, dishonest, lying government will do anything at all? They will wait until they think we have forgotten the subject and then quietly spend it on something that will benefit some of those people and businesses who have contributed so much to their re-election funds!

    Commenter
    EM
    Date and time
    May 14, 2014, 9:03AM
    • Mr Abbott studied in England on a scholarship.

      Just sayin'...

      Commenter
      Pete
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      May 14, 2014, 2:10PM
  • University reforms are fair enough.

    Commenter
    Sharron
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    May 14, 2014, 9:04AM
    • Do you plan on elaborating on your opinion, or do you just think out loud sometimes without worrying about backing up your claims? How is it fair enough? What is the benefit of deregulating fees and reforming HECS? Speak to me from the student or paying parent's perspective, not from the economist's perspective - how does this help anyone? What about the long-term effects of having less degree-educated Australian citizens?

      Perhaps you've already got your degree, and a job. I've got a degree too, and it's being paid off as we speak. Luckily I've got a job too, albeit a dead-end one. I thought about getting a second degree as well, seeing as the job market can be pretty unreasonable with what they expect from graduates. Not anymore though. At least I've got one though, that's going to give me an edge on all the poor bastards who are younger than me who'll never get one. Dwell on that thought for a while before you reply.

      Commenter
      Diabsoule
      Date and time
      May 14, 2014, 10:23AM
    • Fair to the rich, yes. Keep the brainy ones out, buy degrees, US style.

      Commenter
      Get real
      Location
      wA
      Date and time
      May 14, 2014, 11:07AM
    • Don't worry about their comments. I totally agree. We need competition within our education system. We need to create some sort of better than others to start putting us on the world map. Hockey is right, we don't have a simply university that is world class, not one. I am not a Tony support but when I look at this budget all I see is positive news. People need to start looking at the good things more often. Everyone is so negative all the time.

      Commenter
      The Other Guy1
      Date and time
      May 15, 2014, 6:14AM

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