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Student organisations respond to fee hike which could see Arts degree fees more than double

Student organisations are furious at the government's proposal to hike fees amidst Arts subjects already being cut.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan is set to propose fee hikes in humanities and communications degree fees by over 100 per cent, while courses such as agriculture and maths, are facing a decrease in fees by more than 60 per cent.

Tehan is to announce the policy to produce more “job ready graduates” in a speech at the National Press Club today, with the new course fees applying only to new students.

In effect, the policy decreases overall government contributions by 10 per cent, from 58 per cent to 48 per cent, which will see contributions rising from 42 per cent to 52 per cent, as they pay for additional places in absence of additional government funding.

The National Union of Students (NUS) has come out condemning the move, saying this will do more damage to the higher education sector at “a time where we are already facing billions of dollars lost and hundreds of staff cuts.” 

“We need funding, not attacks on students.”

“These degrees are important. The jobs that come out of them are important. These students deserve better from the government.”

The NUS acknowledges that “while the lowering of fees in specific degrees is a positive opportunity for some students, this move is at the expense of hundreds of thousands of young people who have chosen to study a degree that the government doesn’t deem worthy enough.”

In a statement issued via the University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council (SRC) Facebook page last night, President Liam Donohoe declared that the student union “accepts this declaration of war, and is ready to begin the battle.”

The University’s Education Action Group (EAG) are preparing to launch a campaign to counter the fee hikes, rejecting them outright.

“We need to be fighting for fully funded public higher education, not a two-tiered system that attempts to destroy the Arts and Social Sciences in favour of degrees geared purely around the profitability of industry.” 

With an increase of humanities and communications fees to $14,500 per year, an undergraduate Arts degree could cost nearly $50,000. Law, economics, management and commerce fees would also be hiked up to this level.

Maths, agriculture, teaching, nursing, English, foreign language and clinical psychology in contrast, will drop to only $3700.

These fees will not be associated with particular degrees, but with units of study, in an attempt to encourage arts students to take more electives in subject areas.

Uncapped fee deregulation was last attempted in 2014, to mass student and staff outrage. At the time, Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence was a key supporter of it.

Both the NUS and the EAG were instrumental in defeating the Liberal’s attempts at fee deregulation which saw thousands of students mobilise across the country.

These changes must pass the Senate in order to be implemented. 39 votes are needed to pass the bill, meaning the Coalition (36 votes) will have to look to the minor parties, the Centre Alliance (2 votes), One Nation (2 votes) and the Jacqui Lambie (1 vote) for support.

Both the Labor Party and the Greens have come out against the proposed measures today on social media.

More to come.