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The second annual Student Fees Forum was relatively uneventful, despite Reclaim Vic’s promise of a protest.
The Forum took place in the Student Union Building on 9 September. Attended by the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor Grant Guilford and other members of the University Executive, it was billed by VUWSA as a chance to “have a rant with Grant” prior to the University setting its fees for 2015 on Monday 15 September.
The University has raised its fees by the four per cent Fee Maxima every year since the cap was introduced by the Fifth Labour Government, and has at times applied to raise fees beyond that. It seems likely that this will happen again.
VUWSA President Sonya Clark opened the meeting by saying she was frustrated by and opposed to continual fee rises, but she wanted to keep the meeting constructive.
Chancellor Ian McKinnon thanked Clark and said that the Forum was a valuable way for students to respond directly to University management, as “the strength of a university is in robust debate”. McKinnon said he wanted every graduate to have a degree which was well-regarded, and that came with a cost.
Vice-Chancellor Grant Guilford then spoke, outlining the history behind governments funding universities less since the 1990s and student fees rising as a result. CFO Wayne Morgan said that he had had free university education, but that was at the time of 60 per cent income tax.
Morgan also talked a lot about how students paying fees reduced the burden on “your parents the taxpayers”. A student from the audience pointed out that most students work and therefore are taxpayers, which Morgan conceded.
A student then asked about the salaries of the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and CFO. McKinnon said this was not germane, and the CFO said he gets around $200 every day he comes to university. In 2013, the Vice-Chancellor, who is paid through the State Services Commission, was paid between $520,000 and $529,999, while the University of Auckland’s Vice-Chancellor made upwards of $650,000, making him the highest-paid public servant in the country.
Guilford then went through the University’s Government-mandated three per cent surplus and how it had been reinvested. Victoria made $327 million in revenue in 2013, and spent $311 million. 56 per cent of the University’s spending is on employment, 23 per cent on operations and nine per cent on buildings.
Performance was next on the agenda, with Guilford saying 90 per cent of current students rate the University’s overall performance as good or very good. Former Salient editor Stella Blake-Kelly asked whether student opinion was a good metric of academic quality, to which Guilford said he was contemplating a system where lecturers would peer-review each other.
Reclaim Vic have since announced they will be protesting against the fee changes at 1.30 pm in the Hub on Monday 15 September. The fees will be set at 2 pm in the Hunter Building’s Council Chambers. The meeting is open to the public but will be moved behind closed doors if it gets too rowdy.