Freeze UOW fees for 2014 courses: summit

Union representatives Dr Joanne Buckskin, Brianna Parkins, Tony Heathwood, Peter Munford and Mitchell Bresser attended Thursday's education summit at UOW hosted by University Council member with Misha Zelinsky (front). Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Union representatives Dr Joanne Buckskin, Brianna Parkins, Tony Heathwood, Peter Munford and Mitchell Bresser attended Thursday's education summit at UOW hosted by University Council member with Misha Zelinsky (front). Picture: GREG TOTMAN

• UOW 'out of touch' on fee deregulation

• UOW attempts to gag outspoken critic 

Conveners of an emergency education summit at the University of Wollongong have called on Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings to freeze fees for students starting any time in 2014 amid uncertainty over higher education reforms.

The University Council's alumni representative Misha Zelinsky organised the meeting of student and academic union representatives on Thursday in response to concerns over fee deregulation.

The federal government announced in the May budget that universities would be able to set their own course fees from 2016.

Mr Zelinsky said this meant that students starting degrees from the middle of this year could face massive fee hikes in the latter years of their degrees.

He urged Professor Wellings to follow the lead of the University of Western Sydney, which has announced that the fees for students enrolling any time in 2014 would remain capped for the duration of their course.

"The summit calls on the Vice-Chancellor to guarantee that fees will not be increased in 2014 and beyond as part of any deregulated higher education system," Mr Zelinsky said.

"The summit notes that the University of Western Sydney has guaranteed that fees will not increase for students enrolling and commencing study in 2014.

"The Vice-Chancellor of that university [Barney Glover] is standing up for the young people of western Sydney who want a uni education.

"Why won't our Vice-Chancellor stand up for the young people of the Illawarra who want to better themselves?"

Mr Zelinsky said a committee had been formed at the summit that would co-ordinate a community campaign "Our Town, Our University" to protest against fee hikes.

He said a public forum would be held this month before a day of action at the university on July 21.

In a written statement, Prof Wellings said the university was "considering the financial impact of these proposed changes to the university".

"Despite the suggestions of some commentators, students and their families will not be required to raise funds to go to university and local students will not be frozen out of the system," he said.

"The key features of the existing income contingent repayment system, versions of which have been around since 1987, will remain in place."

Prof Wellings said more students from disadvantaged backgrounds would be supported through a new Commonwealth scholarships scheme.

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