By Dylan Lloyd, SRC Education Officer
Last week, Education Minister Simon Birmingham announced drastic fee increases and cuts to higher education.
This innovative overhaul will see some degrees skyrocket to over $70,000 while the HECS repayment threshold is reduced from $55,874 to just $42,000.
It’s never been a more exciting time to be a student. Especially if you’re at UNSW, where you can get even more excited to spend all that extra money on even less content under trimesters!
The good news is that students have a history of winning the fight against these kinds of cuts. These proposals represent the final nail in the coffin for fee deregulation and the unpopular Abbott Government dream of $100,000+ degrees.
Massive student and staff protests from 2014-2015 ensured those policies never made it past the Senate, and generated enough popularity to help topple a sitting prime minister. That was only possible because students, staff and the wider community came out loudly against the attacks and demanded a fairer and more equitable higher education sector in their place.
How this is gonna affect you
- Student fees will increase by 7.5%, in some cases blowing degree costs out to over $70,000
- HECS repayment threshold lowered to just $42,000, meaning you’ll start making mandatory payments on your degree much earlier
- University funding linked to changes in student satisfaction ratings, meaning automatic cuts to University funding in some cases
- Cuts to higher education funding from 2018-2019, meaning less investment in your education
- Under trimesters, UNSW term lengths will be reduced from 13 to 10 weeks, meaning you’ll get less content for a higher price
At Tuesday’s UNSW Academic Board meeting, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) Merlin Crossley highlighted that these cuts will significantly impact low-SES people and those from vulnerable backgrounds.
The SRC agrees, with President Aislinn Stein-Magee claiming that these cuts will dissuade people who are less well-off from coming to UNSW.
“We should be providing more opportunities for vulnerable people and those from low-SES backgrounds to access higher education, not increasing the already huge levels of debt they are forced to take on to get an education,” she said.
Professor Crossley said UNSW would be looking to expand pathways for low-SES entry and equity scholarships, should the budgetary changes pass the Senate crossbench, but acknowledged that these measures wouldn’t be enough to reverse the harms caused for many of those affected.
The University was less forthcoming when it came to trimesters. As student satisfaction ratings will now be linked to university funding, Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT) data will become even more important for university managements.
The plummet in the rankings of UTS this year was linked to their haphazard introduction of unpopular trimesters and interactive learning, as explained in a Sydney Morning Herald article last month.
This raised poignant questions for UNSW management, who have not been swayed in their intention to implement a new calendar against the wishes of students and staff.
Professor Crossley doubled down on his defence of the new calendar at the Board meeting, despite concerns raised about the need to raise UNSW’s satisfaction ratings, one of the lowest-scoring of the Go8 universities in 2017.
How are we gonna stop this thing?
The first thing you can do make a stop to these changes is to click attending on the National Day of Action (NDA) called for 17 May. Co-hosted by the UNSW SRC and the National Union of Students, this rally will see guest speakers, students and staff from around NSW and Australia gather on the UNSW Library Lawn and raise their voices in opposition to higher fees, education cuts, staff cuts and trimesters. Plus there’ll be free food (last time there was 500 pizzas which is like, a lot of pizza, and it was good).
Share the event with your friends and have a conversation with your family about why you’ll be attending. NDAs like these are what stopped $100,000 degrees in the past, and they’re what we can use to stop these attacks this time around.
And, if you want to volunteer more of your time or if you have any ideas or skills to share, join the SRC Education Collective and come along to one of our weekly meetings, every Wednesday from 12-1:30 at Arc Reception. New voices are always welcome!
Students and staff have stopped worse before. We can and will stop these attacks this time, but only if we all pitch in to make sure our voices are heard.
Dylan Lloyd is the SRC Education Officer and Undergraduate Student Representative on the Academic Board.