A debate not all universities will want: do students get value for money

The Senate committee report on the government’s student loan legislation includes mention of expensive degrees universities would probably be happy not to see mentioned. Like this comparisons-are-odious example from the Labor senators’ report;

Labor is very concerned about reckless fee setting. This was the case in the VET FEE HELP market and evidence from the University of Melbourne demonstrates that fees in higher education can easily exceed the current FEE HELP borrowing limit.”

And there was a signal of what could be included in Tanya Plibersek’s proposed post-secondary review; “Labor is concerned about a system which encourages maximum fee setting. A price signal needs to be accompanied by further reforms in this area as part of a broader inquiry into the post-secondary education system.”

Peak student bodies agree. ““There’s no justification for courses to exceed the existing FEE-HELP cap.  Universities are seeking fat profits off postgraduate students who are saddled with student debt at levels never reached before,” the Council of Australian Postgraduate Research Associations and the National Union of Students say.

This isn’t good for universities, which can generally rely on students agreeing with them that everything wrong is due to government funding failures. If students start looking critically at what universities charge this alliance could end – especially if students start considering at what they pay and what they get, in terms of contact-hours, support services and employment outcomes and decide degrees are not always value for money.


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