Arts students at the University of Tasmania feel betrayed after vice-chancellor Rufus Black announced the university’s support for federal fee hikes for courses.
Professor Black appeared via video-link in front of a Senate inquiry hearing in Canberra on the federal government’s proposed higher education fee hikes.
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However, humanities courses are proposed to jump 113 per cent, which has led to criticism from graduates and other alumni from across the country.
Professor Black’s submission said the package would help provide the growing number of funded and indexed places Tasmania needed over the next decade.
He said it would help encourage more people to access higher education in the state.
However, his views have been slammed as a betrayal by the University Labor Society and as a “sell-out” by UTAS.
Society president Ben Dudman said the announcement betrayed students, who would be adversely affected by the proposed changes.
“The University of Tasmania has foolishly sold out students with this decision. Rufus Black has made the baseless claim that the reforms will improve access to education. This is false,” Mr Dudman said.
“Instead, they will lock out working class people who cannot afford a lifetime of HECS debt.”
Mr Dudman said reforms were meant to improve a system, but this package instead would diminish access and ensure a university education is “an unachievable dream”.
Professor Black’s submission said the package would help UTAS meet its goal of increased interstate students, as it moves away from an over-reliance of international students.
“That increased number of interstate students is vital to addressing the significant population challenges the state faces and to enabling UTAS to have a domestic student population of a size that is capable of supporting the type of university the state requires: a university which offers a broader range of high quality courses that are accessible across the regions of the island and provides much of the critical research capabilities that the state requires,” Professor Black said.
He said the proposed reforms had not impacted student enrolments in the courses slated to have their fees raised, and said there continued to be strong interest in particular in the humanities and law courses.
However, Arts student Chelsea Menzie said she felt UTAS had thrown Tasmanians under the bus.
“I feel that UTAS is ignoring students and the wider Tasmanian public by supporting these reforms which restrict our future,” Ms Menzie said.
“These reforms will have a serious impact upon our state, where higher education is already inaccessible to too many people. It’s time to stop penalising education and start investing in Australia’s future.”
Matthew Clark, a student who grew up in the state’s North-West, said the decision would prevent young people in regional areas from attending university.
“As a student who came from the north-west, if I were facing fee hikes like this at the start of my degree I would have reconsidered a university education altogether,” Mr Clark said.
“Prospective students will not study STEM subjects if their interest lies in humanities fields. This decision will lock students out and I worry that people in my hometown of Burnie will not choose to pursue a university education because of these reforms.”
The Senate hearing heard from academics from universities across the country.