UOW vice-chancellor petitioned over fees

A new petition encourages signatories to "say no to $100,000 degrees at UOW".
A new petition encourages signatories to "say no to $100,000 degrees at UOW".
UOW Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings.

UOW Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings.

An online community is calling on UOW Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings to reverse his support of student fee deregulation.

A petition on the issue has collected more than 200 signatures at change.org since last week.

University Council's alumni representative Misha Zelinsky, who penned the document, questioned why Professor Wellings would not voice opposition to the fee hikes when other vice-chancellors had.

"He's got an opportunity to get involved with this, and stop it, and he's not," Mr Zelinsky said. "Why won't the Vice-Chancellor come out for our community and stop these changes?"

A cap on the fees universities can charge students would be lifted from 2016 as part of a package of changes announced by the Abbott government in the May budget.

The package includes a 20 per cent cut in the government's contribution to course funding.

Fee deregulation has divided Australia's vice-chancellors, but has been welcomed by those from Australia's prestigious Group of Eight universities.

In an editorial in the Financial Review in June, Prof Wellings also appeared to welcome the measure, citing "superior levels of funding" as one of three key contributors to a great university.

"After all those years when the sector was controlled by volume (the number of students) and price (the fees associated with each degree) we should be celebrating the chance to do different," he wrote.

"The unpalatable alternative of leaving the fee system untouched and just adding to the large cuts imposed by the outgoing government was clearly an option. But this option was disregarded by [Education Minister Christopher] Pyne in a decision to make the sector more competitive."

Prof Wellings would not comment on the petition, which encourages signatories to "say no to $100,000 degrees at UOW".

But earlier this month he dismissed suggestions that "huge" fee hikes would result from the lifting of the caps.

"I suspect people are sort of over-egging the scale of the fee change," he said.

The higher education package has been condemned at a national day of action in Sydney and Melbourne, where students burned cardboard cut-outs of Mr Pyne.

About six staff and students from a Wollongong opposition group, UOW Uncut, joined the Sydney action.

Group representative Alexander Brown said the day was held to oppose an "elitist agenda", and backed the sentiment expressed in the change.org petition.

"The vice-chancellors really need to stand up for students rather than their own salaries."

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