Uncertainty over course costs drives mature-age uni apps down 10 per cent

UA says planned start date for student contributions increases and reduced government spending not feasible

No decision on the government’s funding cuts is causing “stress and confusion” among prospective students and leading to “double digit’ declines in mature age UG enrolment applications, according to peak lobby Universities Australia.

UA argues that with the Senate not set to consider the changes until October the present proposed start on January 1 is not feasible.

“It’s not fair to expect students to apply for university without knowing what fees they will pay in 2018 or even whether the subjects they hope to study will still be available by the time they arrive,” UA chief Belinda Robinson says.

Universities are also caught in a quandary over budgeting, with the government’s proposed funding cut on the agenda for next year, if the Senate agrees.

“Once again, universities find themselves struggling to finalise budgets and course offerings for next year – this time with 10 per cent of their anticipated revenue hanging in the balance.”

Ms Robinson added universities do not want “to sack staff, reduce student support services or close courses when the fate of the bill has yet to be determined.”

However a long-time industry observer suggests the uncertainty has not stopped universities agreeing to pay rises through to 2021 in the present enterprise bargaining round.

Since when can the feds charge more than parliament permits?

The government is also in a difficult position in telling universities what course costs they must quote. A learned reader points out that the Department of Education is specifying charges that include the 1.8 per cent budget hike for students. with an asterisk that the increase depends on legislation. “I read this as meaning the rates are not correct at time of printing, but might become so,” the reader suggests, adding, “should unis be putting out rates higher than the parliament has so far endorsed, and then?”