Tuesday 23 June 2020

What is the new policy?

Currently, the tuition fees of domestic undergraduate degrees and some domestic postgraduate coursework degrees are subsidised by the Commonwealth Government. Students who are in a Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP) therefore only pay part of the cost of their degree. These students usually defer payment of their portion by accessing Government student loans (HECS-HELP).

Under changes announced by the Education Minister Dan Tehan on 19 June, the Government will change the amount of their contribution, which will vary by area of study. Some areas of study – those which the Government believes have better employment prospects – will receive an increased Government contribution, so will be cheaper for students. Areas which are not deemed a priority for the Government will receive a smaller Government contribution, so will be more expensive for students.

This will only impact students holding Commonwealth Supported Places. The majority of domestic postgraduate coursework students at the University of Melbourne are in full fee places, so it does not apply to them.

The changes will come into effect for students commencing their studies in 2021.

Will my tuition fees go up?

Current students will not face increased fees due to the changes, with current fee arrangements grandfathered in. They will apply only to students enrolling from 2021 onwards.

However, if you are planning to enrol in another degree (with a Commonwealth Support Place) in the future, you will be paying under the new fee structure.

Can my tuition fees get cheaper?

Most domestic graduate coursework degrees are not subsidised by the Commonwealth Government, so will not be impacted.

For the one in three domestic graduate coursework students who are currently studying in a Commonwealth Supported Place:

  • Those in degrees which are becoming more expensive, will have their existing tuition fee scheme grandfathered in. This means they will not be impacted.
  • Those in degrees which are becoming cheaper, will be able to access the new fee structure from next year.
Is the fee increase certain?

It is not absolutely certain, but it is reasonably likely to go ahead.

This new policy is subject to the passage of legislation. Legislation must be passed by the Upper and Lower Houses of parliament. The Government does not have a majority in the Upper House, so it is possible that the legislation will not pass or will only pass in a modified form.

Does this affect international students?

No. International students already pay full fees, with no contribution from the Commonwealth Government.

Does this affect full-fee paying domestic students?

No. The Commonwealth Government does not make a contribution to tuition fees for full-fee paying domestic students.

Does this affect graduate researchers?

No. Domestic graduate research students are exempt from paying tuition fees. International graduate research students who pay fees are not impacted by this announcements.

Which courses will be more expensive?

Fees are charged by unit (subject) rather than by course. The units which will become more expensive are:

  • Creative arts (13% increase)
  • Law (28% increase)
  • Economics (28% increase)
  • Management (28% increase)
  • Commerce (28% increase)
  • Humanities (113% increase)
  • Society and culture (113% increase)
  • Communications (113% increase)
  • Behavioural science (113% increase)

Source: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/radical-shakeup-for-university-fees-proposed/news-story/6f0fa984900a5d570d3417ed76ffaadc

Which courses will be cheaper?

Fees are charged by unit (subject) rather than by course. The units which will become cheaper are:

  • Allied health (21% decrease)
  • Architecture (21% decrease)
  • Information Technology (21% decrease)
  • Engineering (21% decrease)
  • Science (21% decrease)
  • Teaching (46% decrease)
  • Clinical psychology (46% decrease)
  • English (46% decrease)
  • Nursing (46% decrease)
  • Languages (46% decrease)
  • Maths (62% decrease)
  • Agriculture (62% decrease)

Source: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/radical-shakeup-for-university-fees-proposed/news-story/6f0fa984900a5d570d3417ed76ffaadc

Will students commencing in Semester Two be impacted?

No. The Government has advised that the new structure will be in place from 2021. Additionally, the earliest this legislation can be passed is in August 2020, so it cannot come into effect by Semester Two.

Will this change the cap on HELP (student loans)?

No. The current HELP limit (the total you can borrow under HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP, and vocational student loans) is $106,319. For students of medicine, dentistry, and veterinary science, the HELP limit is $152,700.

While fees are going up for some courses, there is no Government proposal to increase the cap on HELP. GSA has previously campaigned on the inadequacy of HELP loans to cover actual course costs.

What other concerns are there?

We have released a media statement outlining some of our concerns about the Government’s proposal.

Our concerns include:

  • The devaluation of the humanities and other important disciplines;
  • The plan’s failure to improve outcomes for education or jobs; and
  • The plan is based on misunderstandings and stereotypes about the career value of degrees.

Additionally, there are several implications of this proposal which will disadvantage students:

  • Popular degree combinations, such as a Bachelor of Arts followed by a Juris Doctor, will become more inaccessible for students. This is because the total cost can exceed the HELP loan cap, meaning students will have to pay a greater portion of their fees upfront.
  • If higher fees for some disciplines translates to lower enrolments, there will be less demand for teaching staff. As much teaching is done by graduate researchers, this will mean fewer employment opportunities for graduate research students in these disciplines.
What is GSA doing about this?

We will undertake further analysis of the changes when details become available. We have released a media statement and will continue to advocate for accessible, high-quality tertiary education.

Media release: GSA strongly opposes education minister’s latest fee-change plan


Graduate Student Association