The University of Melbourne has formally advised the student union about the allocations of the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) for the years 2017–19.
From next year, students and staff at the University will be able to apply directly to receive SSAF funds for suitable projects, under a new flexible component of the funding formula.
Ninety-five per cent of core SSAF funding will still go to the same handful of organisations but around five per cent – or $750,000 – will be held as a contingency amount.
There will also be a substantial increase in funds granted to the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU).
Next year, UMSU’s projected SSAF allocations are around $5.8 million. This figure represents an increase of over $600,000 on the projections of the current model.
The SSAF is a compulsory fee that the University collects from all students annually. In 2016 the SSAF amounted to $290 for full-time students and $217 for part-time students.
The money goes towards a number of student organisations and services. The three big ones are UMSU (which received 36 per cent of SSAF in 2016), Melbourne University Sport (20 per cent) and the Graduate Student Association (15 per cent).
The SSAF also funds a number of services provided by the University, including childcare, counselling and career services.
The University has collected the fee from students for the last five years, accumulating a significant surplus due to enrolments being consistently higher than estimated.
Last year, a huge review of the SSAF found that many students weren’t aware of how the SSAF was allocated or even what it was. UMSU has attempted to address these concerns by using its ‘Brought to you by your SSAF’ logo, championed by the General Secretaries of last year and this year.
Postgraduate students – particularly those studying Medicine – have also voiced concerns that they are overlooked by SSAF funds. Because they are off campus for large portions of their degrees, they are often unable to access the services offered by the University and so some consider it unfair that they have to pay the SSAF. Many students at non-Parkville campuses expressed similar concerns in last year’s survey.
“The SSAF Consultative Group, which includes representatives from all SSAF-funded bodies, have agreed that there needs to be new goals and principles around the expenditure of the SSAF,” says UMSU President Tyson Holloway-Clarke, who is a member of the group.
“We all came to the agreement that we must collectively engage with other campuses more in the delivery of services. This will most likely manifest in strong partnerships with both Faculties and other SSAF-funded groups to try and best meet the needs of non-Parkville students.”
Holloway-Clarke says that there needs to be a greater emphasis on the equitable access to SSAF-funded programs.
“This includes lower costs for students using sporting and gym facilities, more programs for the growing international and graduate student body and more well-funded targeted programs to support students,” he says.
“We are fortunate enough to be able to deliver these programs without having to compromise on our current and ongoing services.”
So who can apply to receive SSAF funds next year?
Under federal government legislation, all projects funded by the SSAF must fall into one of 19 categories – for example, supporting debating, sports, or artistic activities by students. The full list of categories can be obtained from the website of the Australian Government Department of Education and Training.
In the survey last year, the most popular suggestions for additional services included improved cultural facilities, such as tours around the various campuses and creative arts classes. Some also expressed a wish for more social events to help students make friends.
Projects that have been developed in partnership with other SSAF recipients and University departments will be particularly encouraged to apply for funding.
“SSAF funds support a wide range of important programs and services which enhance students’ experience of University,” explains Elizabeth Capp, Director of Students and Equity.
“The University highly values working with students on the allocation of SSAF funds and we look forward to continuing collaboration with our student associations, UMSU and GSA, to get the best possible outcomes for all.”