23 August 2017

The University of Melbourne, the Graduate Student Association (GSA) and University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) have united in opposition to the federal budget’s proposed reforms to Higher Education. Chief among their concerns is how changes to the allocation of postgraduate, Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs) will severely disadvantage students studying through the Melbourne Model.

On 11 May, the Government put forward a Bill to amend the Higher Education Support Act (2003) which has attracted heavy criticism from students and universities across Australia.

The University has referred to the Bill as a “piecemeal policy offering that fails to acknowledge and address the shortcomings of the demand-driven system, overlooks the integral role of research in the university setting and will cause severe detriment across the system if implemented”.

One of the University’s concerns is the proposal to develop a scholarship scheme to allocate post-graduate CSPs, which will likely be “cumbersome and expensive to administer” and reduce the amount of CSPs by approximately 3,000.

A University spokesperson told Farrago Australian citizens who are currently studying or beginning their studies in 2018 would not be affected by the changes.

The University believes that the proposed reform “fundamentally undermines the integrity and viability of the Melbourne Model”. Melbourne undergraduate courses are designed to be broad whilst post-graduate courses offer specialised learning.

Arrangements between the University and the Government during the development of the Melbourne Model mean that “Melbourne has a larger number of postgraduate CSPs compared to other universities, but is not permitted to participate in the undergraduate demand-driven system,” the University said.

“To remove the assured postgraduate pathway, without any consultation with the University, would nullify the previous arrangements with the Government on the funding model.”

Students are echoing these sentiments in a survey conducted by UMSU’s Education (Public) Department.

“The Melbourne Model works in such a way that it essentially forces the students to take a postgraduate degree, because the undergraduate degree at the University of Melbourne will not allow students to specialise in anything,” one student wrote.

The Government believes that the proposals in the Bill are “reasonable, necessary and proportionate to the policy objective of ensuring access to tertiary education.”

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