The University of Ballarat says any changes to the demand-driven student system for tertiary education places will hurt regional areas.
Vice-chancellor David Battersby yesterday responded to comments by Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne, who flagged a review of the system.
Mr Pyne also raised the future axing of compulsory university fees collected to support student services and scrapping Labor’s targets to lift participation by disadvantaged students.
He described the student services and amenities fee introduced by Labor as “compulsory student unionism by the backdoor”.
Mr Pyne said the Coalition would abolish the fees.
He told Fairfax Media that the Coalition would also axe Labor’s target to increase participation by those from low socio-economic backgrounds to 20 per cent by 2020.
Professor David Battersby said Mr Pyne’s comments were concerning.
“The University of Ballarat is concerned about reported statements from the federal minister that the Coalition will abolish the student services fee, axe the participation targets for students in higher education, and review the demand driven student system,” Professor Battersby said.
“The student services fee at UB provides funding for services such as the student leadership and volunteer program, the careers and employment service, the student legal service and on campus sport and recreation services.”
Professor Battersby said UB did not have a student union or student association.
And, even if it did, the student services fee could not, by law, be used to support the political activities of student unions.
“These additional funding cuts on top of the $3 billion cuts to universities will have a detrimental impact on regional universities,” Profesor Battersby said.
“The demand driven system has been critical in lifting university participation in regional Australia and in the regions served by University of Ballarat.
“The University of Ballarat has built significant new infrastructure, largely funded by the former federal government, to support this growth.”
Professor Battersby said any significant changes to the demand driven system would impact on all regional universities to grow participation in higher education in regional Australia, enhance regional development, and diversify regional industries and economies.