University Speaks Out On $2.1 Billion Higher Education Cuts12 January 2018
The University of Melbourne has broken its silence on the cuts to higher education in the government’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO). The changes, which will see $2.1 billion cut from Australian universities and cap enrolment numbers, could affect students’ tuition fees and postgraduate plans.
“The University of Melbourne is disappointed that the federal government has taken action to cut higher education funding. Higher education is an investment in Australia’s future, not a cost,” said Richard James, the University’s deputy vice-chancellor.
In December, the government announced plans to cap university places and decrease the repayment threshold on student loans to an income of just $45,000. It also announced the introduction of a lifetime limit on monetary assistance and put an immediate non-legislative freeze on funding. This will put an end to unlimited Commonwealth support.
The University’s response to these plans reassures students that their tuition fees will not increase as a result of the cuts.
However, the number of postgraduate places currently supported by the government is less secure.
“[The government has] also signalled that from 2019 they intend to allocate graduate places to universities based on performance against as-yet-unknown criteria,” said James.
If there are changes to postgraduate funding, they will not happen this year.
“We have received reassurances from the federal minister for education that we will have an unchanged number of postgraduate Commonwealth-supported places for current undergraduate domestic students and for undergraduate domestic students starting this year,” said James.
These plans could be detrimental to the Melbourne Model, which encourages students to pursue postgraduate study after their undergraduate degree.
“[The University expects] the government to engage in comprehensive and transparent consultation regarding their proposed approach to postgraduate places to ensure the integrity of the Melbourne Model,” said James.
Some students have expressed panic, unsure if they will be able to pursue postgraduate study if the changes occur.
“My postgrad is integral to future career prospects but because of [these changes] I may not be able to do it,” said a student who wished to remain anonymous.
UMSU has released a press statement condemning the MYEFO cuts.
“These proposed changes will not achieve anything other than locking out students who already face huge barriers in accessing tertiary education in the first place; namely, students who are already at a disadvantage, including those from low socioeconomic backgrounds, regional communities, and Indigenous students,” said the statement, signed off by the UMSU education (public) officers and the UMSU president.
UMSU Education Office Bearer Conor Clements is disappointed in the University for not making a public announcement about their position on the cuts.
“The government announced the cuts at a purposely bad time, right before the end of year holiday period,” he said.
“Nevertheless, it would be nice to see Melbourne University, being one of the most prestigious universities in the country, take a vocal stance when cuts are announced and bad policy is proposed by the government, especially for the universities which cannot afford to take these kinds of hits to their budgets.”
Students from the University of Melbourne and other Australian universities will be attending a national day of action on 21 March to protest the MYEFO cuts to higher education.
Photo credit: Guardian Australia