The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) is urging universities to not disadvantage students who participate in National Union of Students protests around the country.
“The NTEU has encouraged its members not to penalise students that attend these peaceful protests, with at least one university encouraging its staff to do the same,” Jeannie Rea National President NTEU said.
“In addition to undermining Australia’s public higher education sector and threatening the viability of some of our public universities, the changes to university funding and regulation announced as part of last week’s federal budget impose enormous costs on students.
“Students will pay for these reforms through higher fees which are expected to increase by tens of thousands of dollars. Students will graduate with debts of $100,000 on which they will now have to pay market interest rates.
“Students and their families should not have to consider taking out a second mortgage to pay for a first degree.
“A number of commentators including Professor Bruce Chapman, credited with the design of Australia’s pioneering income contingent higher education contribution scheme (HECS), have noted that the increased fees and debts will impact unfairly on our most disadvantaged students.
“Perhaps the meanest and trickiest aspect of the reformed changes include the abolition of Student Start-up Scholarships and Relocation scholarships (saving about $800m over four years) and replacing them with so-called Commonwealth Scholarships, which will be funded by one dollar out of every very five collected by universities charging extra fees.
“The proposal means that scholarships will be funded from higher fees, which the bulk of student will add to their student debt. In short the Commonwealth is asking students to put the cost of scholarships for their disadvantaged classmates on their credit cards.
“The only way that Mr Pyne could be correct in saying that in saying that “we are going to have the biggest Commonwealth scholarships fund in Australia’s history” (7.30 Report, 14 May 2014) is if students pay record high fees and accumulate record high levels of debts.
“Clearly, Minister for Education Pyne’s definition of equity is to ensure that all students are disadvantaged,” Rea concluded.