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Media Release: Higher fees will not make Sydney University a fairer institution

Posted 27 October 2014 by Courtney Sloane (NTEU National Office)

The NTEU today disputed the Vice Chancellor's claims that deregulation will make the University of Sydney a fairer and more open institution.

Dr Michael Spence, Vice Chancellor of The Sydney University has said that if the Government’s higher education policies are passed then his university will be able to use increased student fee income to double the amount it spends on student scholarships from $80m to $160m and increase the number of students eligible for equity based scholarships from 700 to 9,000.

"These claims raise two very important questions, firstly how much would fees need to rise for the university to increase scholarship funding by $80m and secondly, would the average value of the scholarships be sufficient to offset the average increase in fees?" said Jeannie Rea, NTEU National President.

"Under the Abbott Government’s proposed Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme, universities would be required to set aside 20% of increased student fees for disadvantaged student scholarships. The 20% applies to increased fee income above that necessary to offset the 20% cut in funding per student in the Government’s higher education legislation currently before the Senate.

"According to the latest financial data, the University of Sydney currently receives about $300m in fee income from Commonwealth supported students. This would need increase by 30% ($90m) just to compensate for cuts to government funding. In order to raise Dr Spence's $80m for the Commonwealth Scholarship scheme fee income would have to rise by $400m. In other words, total fee income would need to increase from around $300m to about $790m, or about 160%, for the University to fulfil its commitments to doubling the value of scholarships from $80m to $160m.

"Given that the average Commonwealth supported student contribution is in the order of $8,000 this would mean that the average student fee would have to increase to about $20,800 or on average by $12,800 per student.  

"However, if Sydney University wants to give a scholarship to one third (about 9,000) of its students, then the average value of each scholarship funded from the fee increase is about $8,900 per student.

"That is, on average all students will be worse off. For the two thirds of students who do not receive a scholarship, they will be paying $12,800 on average more than they are under the current arrangements. And for students in receipt of a scholarship, they will be on average $3,400 worse off than they are now.

"This is just a further demonstration that the simple arithmetic of the new Commonwealth Scholarship scheme does not add up. It is further evidence that the Government's whole higher education bill should be rejected.

“Our university system must not be jeopardized by half-baked legislation where there has not even been the usual process of wide ranging sector and public consultation, but rather an unseemly haste of pushing massive changes through the Parliament,” concluded Rea.

For a more detailed explanation see NTEU The Simple Arithmetic of Inequity)           


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