23 October 2011

Student Services and Amenities Fee to be charged in 2012

Dear Members,

Some of you will have heard about the recent passing of the Higher Education Legislation Amendment (Student Services and Amenities) Bill 2010, in the Federal Senate. In short, this legislation will allow the University to charge a compulsory fee up to $263 to be spent on student services and amenities. The fee will be a deferrable payment for all students, except for international students who will have to pay the fee upfront.

Under the legislation, the University is obliged to consult with democratically elected student representatives regarding the distribution of the funds, including publishing priorities for proposed fee expenditure and allowing opportunities for students to comment on these priorities. As part of their obligations, the University has set up a Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) Consultation Committee, in which the USU, SRC, SUPRA, Campus Rewards, SUSF and international students are represented. The University’s Student Support Services Department is also represented on the committee, and chaired by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) Professor Derrick Armstrong.

Legally, the University is restricted to spend the funds generated by the SSAF on non-academic purposes. The full criteria is listed in the legislation and includes services such as providing food and drink to students, supporting the administration of student clubs, supporting artistic activity by students, and promoting the health or welfare of students; the majority of which are currently provided for by the University of Sydney Union. The USU is constantly striving to expand these services to more students, and an increase in funding from the SSAF would allow us to do just that.

We strongly believe that the funds generated by the SSAF are best administered by democratically elected student organisations, that is, those institutions that are most in touch with student needs. The SSAF is a positive step forward for the University and students alike, as it will relieve the financial dependence of student organisations such as the USU on the University administration. Since voluntary student unionism (VSU) was enacted in 2006, the USU has relied on the University for approximately $3 million of indirect funding per year under our Service Level Agreement, which is due to expire at the end of this year. The loss of $8.4 million in compulsory fees post-VSU was crippling for USU student services, and it was the students of Sydney University that bore the brunt. We therefore look forward to co-operating with the University to ensure that the funds of the SSAF are spent wisely to create more insightful, inclusive and in-tune programs for all our students.

The University is legally obliged to take your views into account in the distribution and administration of the funds. Please leave your thoughts and comments below so I can take them to the SSAF Consultation Committee. The Board are concerned that the University will not fully recognise the role that student organisations such as the USU play in the delivery of student services. As the process to distribute the SSAF gets underway, we would appreciate your support in advocating for student life to remain student run.

Yours sincerely,

Sibella Matthews



  1. I realise this is a crude way of looking at it, but is this fee meant to compensate for the impact of VSU on student life at Australian Universities? I'm asking out of pure ignorance and am too lazy to look too deeply into it myself.

  2. I wholeheartedly trust the USU to put this fee to best use in the interests of its students, and can only hope it gets the chance to.

  3. Blake, Post Grad Student, Business SchoolNovember 7, 2011 at 8:29 AM

    All of us (Students) are joint owners of the University under the state University of Sydney Act. We share the ownership with Academics, Professors and Graduates. But only Students and Emeritus Professors are owners for live.

    Allowing us to run our own organisations, and provide ourselves with the services, clubs and societies we want, and for us to own our own spaces on campus, is really important for developing this sense of shared ownership.

    University is more than just a course, its a different model of learning where participation as equals is an inherent part of how this form of education works.

    I strongly support the USU retaining control of our buildings and continuing to provide the vast majority of student services, under student control.