Joint call from uni, students and staff on student income support

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Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The University of Adelaide, the staff union and the student union have joined forces to raise awareness of the difficulties students face in financially supporting themselves during their studies.

The recent Review of Australian Higher Education has raised a number of key issues about student income support that Australia's universities have been urging for the past decade.

The University of Adelaide, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the Adelaide University Union (AUU) are throwing their support behind the Review's recommendations on student income support, which they believe will have great benefits for students, the higher education sector and the future of the Australian economy.

In a joint statement issued today, University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor and President Professor James McWha, NTEU Adelaide Branch President Dr Rod Crewther and AUU President Lavinia Emmett-Grey say student income support requires urgent attention from the Federal Government.

The University, staff and students alike agree with the range of recommendations on student income support in the Higher Education Review. These recommendations would help ease the financial pressure on students, and include:

  • changes to the Parental Income Test;
  • changes to the Personal Income Test;
  • changes to eligibility for recognition of "independence";
  • provide eligibility to Masters by coursework students;
  • enhance the Commonwealth Scholarships program;
  • regular reviews of student income support.

"Students face many additional costs associated with study - such as books, printed material, equipment and other teaching resources - let alone the cost of living itself. The result is that current levels of income support do not reflect actual needs of students," says Professor McWha.

"Many students have to undertake excessive part-time work to supplement their income, and this can have a substantial impact on their educational experience. This in turn puts pressure on students and their families.

"If we are to increase access to higher education and ensure Australia benefits from its intellectual talent, we must resolve these issues," he says.

Dr Crewther says: "Living costs are also an increasing challenge for many students. Many students have inadequate food and/or housing, which is made worse by increasingly strict eligibility criteria for student support.

"Providing adequate educational and financial support for students is crucial to ensuring students, particularly those traditionally excluded from entry, are able to participate and succeed at university," Dr Crewther says.

Ms Emmett-Grey says: "The Federal Government has made a commitment to have 20% of undergraduate students from poorer backgrounds by 2020. This commitment must have the backing of substantial adjustments to the current student income support system if it is going to be a sincere one.

"Education is supposed to be the great equaliser. How can it be, if students cannot get fair and accessible financial support for basic survival?" she says. "The single unemployment benefit is greater than most student income support payments that are available. The whole system is geared against students. In a time of financial uncertainty, we should be encouraging people to return to study, rather than penalising them."


Contact Details

Ms Lavinia Emmett-Grey
President, Adelaide University Union (AUU)
Business: +61 8 8313 6945
Mobile: 0406 960 373

Dr Rod Crewther
President, National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) (Adelaide Branch)
Business: +61 8 8313 4576 or 8313 5996

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762