Uni fund to feel crunch

FEDERATION University could lose about $10 million annually over four years under the Federal Government’s proposed changes to higher education.

Commentators have also warned regional universities will be the hardest hit under a deregulated, free-market education system.

Influential former Melbourne University vice-chancellor Kwong Lee Dow in a speech at Ballarat said once deregulated, high fees would be seen as a market of quality, causing institutions to raise their fees.

“In poorer communities, including regional and rural communities, families will not be able to meet these higher fees,” Professor Lee Dow said.

“So the institutions will have less funding and become less competitive over time.”

The prediction follows the university’s establishment at the beginning of this year, when the University of Ballarat took over the Monash Gippsland campus.

FedUni vice-chancellor Professor David Battersby said there was no guarantee budget proposals would pass in their entirety, but there was a likelihood that funding to the university would be impacted.

“Our modelling suggests our federal funding could fall by about $10 million a year over four years from 2016,” Professor Battersby said.

“This figure is inexact, however, as the university’s income may rise over the same period. We will have a clearer position about our future budget when federal legislation is passed.”

FedUni Gippsland Head of Campus Dr Harry Ballis said the comments made in Professor Lee Dow’s speech were not central to his paper and politicised in the media.

Dr Ballis also doubted Professor Lee Dow’s argument that high fees would be seen as a market of quality, or the perception price equated to quality.

“Why would somebody make a decision to study in the city with three or four times the accommodation costs that they would pay at the Gippsland campus?

“My instinct suggests students would decide on those measures to come to a regional campus,” Dr Ballis said.

He said there were various scenarios with some commentators saying things were not going to be as bad, and others believing doom and gloom.

“I think the truth is somewhere between them. No doubt it will have an impost on students, with higher HECS-HELP and higher interest rates,” Dr Ballis said.

If the shortfall eventuated, he said the university would be “pulling its belt in” to make ends meet, running things more frugally and recouping lost funds by passing on costs.

“The key thing for students, is that they will need to be even more financially astute and keep a close eye on their wallets.”

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