UOW student union 'losing money every year'

Student union president Mitchell Bresser says WUSA is facing financial woes. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR
Student union president Mitchell Bresser says WUSA is facing financial woes. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

With the University of Wollongong's student union facing serious financial problems, its leaders have criticised UOW's use of student amenities fees.

"Currently we're losing money every year and an unexpected cost like a public liability issue would destroy us; we've been running on a deficit for years," Wollongong Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) president Mitchell Bresser said.

"We're the only union in the National Union of Students that doesn't have a base funding agreement with our university."

WUSA applied for funding from the student amenities fee (SAF) received by UOW in 2012 but was denied.

University students currently pay $281 annually in compulsory SAF, with UOW collecting $4,669,000 in 2014.

The university uses the Student Representation Forum and a survey to determine how the money is spent, with the university obliged by federal legislation to spend the money on services supporting students.

"The forum made the number one recommendation to allocate 7.5 per cent of SAF, a number in the realm of what other universities are doing, to WUSA," Mr Bresser said.

"It was recommended by a democratically elected students body and it was knocked back by uni council."

UOW didn't comment on why the recommendation was rejected but said in a statement that it seeks feedback on SAF allocation through various channels.

"This feedback is assessed at a number of levels and informs the decision-making each year regarding the allocation of SAF revenue," director of Student Services Megan Huisman said.

The use of SAF money to develop a cafe and recreation space run by Uni Centre drew particular ire from the WUSA president.

"Students should not be paying for a cafe, we should not be subsidising Uni Centre profit," Mr Bresser said.

UOW defended its use of the funds in a statement.

"This outdoor zone of campus was tired, lacked appropriate disabled access, and needed significant infrastructure improvement to turn the space into a well patronised student relaxation and recreation space," the statement said.

Over two years, $1,349,000 of SAF money was spent on outdoor recreation areas.

WUSA received more than $12,000 SAF allocation for one-off projects in 2014 after not receiving any SAF funding for two years.