The University of Sydney is moving to make summer and winter school much more affordable for domestic students by offering Commonwealth supported places (CSPs) and allowing fees to be put on HECS.
Under the proposed system, the cost of a commerce unit would be reduced from $4250 to $1305 — roughly a quarter of the current cost — for a typical domestic undergraduate student on 2016 numbers. The costs of summer and winter school courses from other faculties would be reduced by a similar amount.
The availability of HECS also means students will be able to defer paying for their studies without the 25 per cent fee incurred under the FEE-HELP loan scheme currently offered for summer and winter school courses.
Until now, the University has chosen to only offer full-fee places for summer and winter school, which means it receives more money per student.
The proposed changes have not yet been formally adopted by the University; they will go before the University Executive in the “near future” for approval, according to a University spokesperson.
Deputy Vice Chancellor (Registrar) Tyrone Carlin said the University’s senior leadership team, especially Provost Stephen Garton and Deputy Vice Chancellor (Education) Pip Pattison, are “very supportive” of the plan and predicted that the Executive would be too.
The University declined to comment on when the new payments scheme would come into effect.
To offer students CSPs and HECS, the University must merely make an administrative ‘determination’ that students are eligible.
USyd’s closest competitors, the University of New South Wales and the University of Technology Sydney, have both recently moved to trimester models in which students studying over the summer period have access to HECS.
Carlin acknowledged that the University’s move to offer CSPs for summer and winter school courses was “obviously interlinked” with its plan to shorten semesters in a manner similar to UNSW and UTS, but said it was primarily motivated by a conviction that it was the “right thing to do”.
Charging less for summer and winter school would produce a “better quality educational journey for our students,” said Carlin.
A University spokesperson said the change was specifically motivated by “student feedback to the University, most particularly the results of an analysis of student views on summer and winter programs undertaken by the University during 2016”.
Yet Carlin said he was aware that “It’s been a point of concern for a lot of students for years.”
USyd arts/law student Jonty Katz, who undertook a law subject at summer school in 2017, said, “it’s ridiculous that I had to pay a substantial sum of money just to be able to do a subject outside of semester. I wish the uni had done this sooner.”
Students have been active on the issue for some time. In 2014, Students’ Representative Council welfare officer Oliver Plunkett ran a ‘HECS for Summer and Winter School’ petition that collected over 800 signatures before petering out.
With the support of some of the University’s most powerful figures, it is unlikely the same thing will happen to this proposal.