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Quelle surprise: student fees to rise, in a big way

Fairfax Media    |    1 June 2014

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Uni Melb logoStudent fees at Melbourne University will need to rise by up to 61% in Uni Sydney logosome courses to manage federal budget cuts and the government’s increasingly controversial overhaul of higher education. Price hikes of a similar scale are predicted for Sydney University.

In an email sent to staff members on Friday 30 May, Melbourne University Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis estimated fees across the university would soar, as he outlined the university’s plan to work through the budget.

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Davis says initial analysis shows the gap caused by reduced public funding

…..is momentous indeed – fees would need to rise by 45% to make up lost funding in social science disciplines, by 54% in Science, and by 61% in Engineering. The budget has significantly changed the allocation of public money across disciplines. There are some winners – mathematics and humanities – and many losers.

Davis is the first vice-chancellor to indicate potential fee increases if course fees were to be uncapped. He said students would be offered “nothing new” for the increased debt.

Students will be hit with double fees for some arts degrees and at least 55% rises for engineering and science degrees at the University of Sydney.

An analysis of the cost implications to the university from the government’s planned 20% reduction in funding for university places shows fees for communications, social science, environmental and engineering degrees will soar.

A Sydney University three-year bachelor of environmental systems costs a domestic student a minimum of $25,839 based on current fees.

Under the changes, students would face a bill of at least $42,405 for the same degree from 2016.  A communications degree costs a student about $18,132 but that would skyrocket to about $37,000.

Go8 Equity scales

Davis told staff that they should “urge the Government to moderate the interest rate imposed on student debt and reconsider deep cuts caused by the change in funding clusters”.

Everyone on campus, student and staff member alike, understands we are now entering an unprecedented era in higher education. There are challenging issues involved in setting fees that cover the real costs of university education, yet minimise debt levels for the next generation.

As one of Australia’s elite universities, with high demand for many of its subjects, Melbourne University is well-placed to increase its fees.

However, in an interview with Fairfax Media, Davis said the university would not increase fees to charge the maximum possible.

“An economist would tell you that competition should hold fees down,” he said. “I think there’s some truth in that.”

He said if students have more choice in where to go for tertiary study, universities would keep their prices low enough to attract applications.

Davis said he is “concerned” about parts of the federal budget and found parts of it “distressing”, despite his general support for tertiary fee deregulation.

“The only reason I am for fee deregulation is because both sides of politics have showed us they aren’t prepared to do enough public funding.  Let me be clear about that: I’m not in favour of fee deregulation in its own right […] I’d prefer something else, but I and anyone else has to live with the world as it is.

But he also said he supports fee deregulation because “it never seemed to me sensible to have government setting fees. Why is government the right body to decide exactly what the fees are?”

 

 

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