University to explore pilot program of fees for 1998

Friday, 13 June 1997

The University of Adelaide Council today approved the exploration of a carefully-targeted pilot program of fees for a small number of Australian undergraduate places beginning in 1998.

A working group will be formed to develop and monitor codes of entry and academic standards and to examine questions of access and equity.

In keeping with the Federal Government's guidelines, fees would apply to a limited number of places over and above the current number of student places which are funded by the Government and through the HECS scheme.

The fees would apply to a range of courses.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide, Professor Mary O'Kane, said the painful decision was made in a climate of shrinking Government funding to universities.

The University would continue to lobby the Government for greater public investment in higher education, and she would strongly oppose any attempt to erode publicly-funded student places in favour of fee-paying places.

"We would be foolish to view this kind of small-scale fee program as some kind of panacea to universities' financial problems," Professor O'Kane said.

"We need to diversify our sources of income, but we also need to convince this Government and the Opposition that higher education is worthy of considerably more public investment.

"Australia will suffer economically and culturally if our short-term budgetary position is allowed to shroud the long-term wisdom of heavy public investment in higher education."

The University will explore scholarships and other measures to ensure that people from disadvantaged backgrounds are not locked out of the fee-paying program.

"Any fee income will go towards improving the quality of education for all students," Professor O'Kane said. "The question here is not filling the University's pockets - it's making sure we maintain our high quality of teaching, learning and research.

"In direct contravention of its election commitment, the Government has reduced our budget by 6 per cent over four years. This has come on top of a gradual reduction of funding per student under Labor.

"While some universities have decided against up-front fees, we believe there is a market for fee-paying courses at the University of Adelaide. In our current financial situation, the University would be irresponsible to ignore this source of funding."

Council decided the pilot program would not continue beyond 1998 without an express resolution of Council following consideration of recommendations from the working party.


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