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Last week I voted against a 2% increase in your fees.
Students want to be more involved in the setting of fees. You want to see teaching quality increase as a result of increased fees and that can’t just be measured by whether we generally have ‘good’ and ‘very good’ teachers, as asked in the course feedback forms we get at the end of each trimester. We need to start a genuine conversation with students about how our fees are set and where we’d like them to go. It’s about valuing students as partners and being open to changing what we have always done.
But the situation is bigger than that too. It’s about the whole funding model for tertiary education. Since the introduction of tuition fees, students and the university have been at loggerheads over the $$. The reality is that tertiary education is increasingly being underfunded, which causes universities to grow the student body and increase fees in order to build their revenue.
When not just one, but all opposition parties support some form of free tertiary education, it shows that something needs to change in order to alleviate the $15 billion of debt that plagues our student population, and to support universities in focussing its attention on academic quality without the fear of being underfunded. The financial pressures that students face have certainly reached crisis point. We pay so much for an education, yet we can barely afford the bus to get to class. We can barely get a relevant, good-paying job upon graduation. Our mental health is deteriorating in part due to the high expectations we put on ourselves, as we look at that growing loan balance.
Whether or not you support free tertiary education, I’m sure you’ll agree that something needs to change in order to ensure students feel more valued by their universities and by their society.