14 July 2014


On Sunday 6 June several members of the Board of Directors and USU staff attended the Sydney Bust the Budget rally held at Town Hall. We arrived around 15 minutes before the scheduled start time, by which point Town Hall Square and the streets surrounding had already filled well to capacity with thousands of people. After hearing several keynote speakers we took to the streets alongside teachers, pensioners, families, doctor, nurses, and fellow students.

Recently Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz publically stated that creating a private market out of universities is ‘absurd’, and that the deregulation of fees will move the Australian tertiary education system in the wrong direction. We attended the rally to express our disapproval of the current government’s push for uncapped deregulation of university fees on behalf of the Union’s members.

Figures cited by the Sydney Morning Herald1 show that “students will be hit with double fees for some arts degrees and at least 55 per cent rises for engineering and science degrees at the University of Sydney.” The figures, which go on to show severe increases across all disciplines, are a mark of an unprecedented era in higher education.

These increased costs have a severe impact on student equity, access and participation – and will leave students crippled with debt, and therefore unable in the future to buy their first homes, set up enterprise and support their families. We believe deregulating fees creates a discouraging environment especially for poorer students from low socio-economic backgrounds; this would be yet another hurdle to obtaining a tertiary education. We believe educational resources should be available equitably, and that access to education should not be easier for some than others.

Your Board of Directors is committed to fighting the deregulation of university fees alongside other student organisations. As access to tertiary education becomes more difficult, so too does the ability for many students to get involved in campus life.

Our CEO, Andrew Woodward, also considers the reduction of funding to Australian universities to be a major concern and feels it should be reassessed. “The recent history in this sector is to remove funding which is leading to more and more pressure on individual universities. This is not a good thing.”

We encourage you, our members, to read about what deregulation may mean for you, and form your own opinion. (Caroline McMillen, Vice-Chancellor at University of Newcastle, has written two articles on The Conversation which may prove useful - http://theconversation.com/the-government- should-think-hard-before-deregulating-university-fees-26175, and http://theconversation.com/a- vice-chancellors-defence-of-the-uncapped-university-system-18639).

If you would like to discuss the deregulation debate, or talk to us about how you can get involved, feel free to contact us, whether it’s by email, Facebook, Twitter or dropping by our office on Level 5 of the Holme Building.

Tara Waniganayaka 

On behalf of the USU Board of Directors.

1 Swain, Jonathan and Smith, Alexandra (June 1, 2014), ‘Uni course fees expected to double, analysis shows’, Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/uni-course-fees-expected-to-double- analysis-shows-20140531-39b0b.html

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