Students at Australia’s universities will have access to better quality services and amenities when they return to campus next year, following the passage of the Higher Education Support Amendment (Student Services and Amenities) Bill.
Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans said the Bill signalled a long overdue boost for student services, and a big win for regional universities which have been among the strongest advocates for change.
“This legislation will assist universities in rebuilding vital student services and amenities to ensure that they can support their growing student populations,” Senator Evans said.
“From next year, countless campus services which were stripped of funding under the former Coalition Government will start to be rebuilt.
“Students will benefit from improved access to a range of campus services, including sporting and recreational activities, employment and career advice, child care, financial advice and food services.
“The Coalition’s neglect of student services hit regional campuses particularly hard, with many student facilities at regional campuses forced to close down.”
A key feature of the new arrangements is that students can benefit from better student services while they are at university but defer payment of the fee through the HECS system until they are earning a decent income.
“Students have a clear interest in how their fees are being spent. Universities will be required to consult with students on the specific uses of the proceeds from any services and amenities fees,” Senator Evans said.
Under the new legislation, higher education institutions can charge a fee of up to $263 per student in 2012. No student will be forced to join any student organisation and the Bill expressly prohibits fee revenue being used to support a political party.
The student services and amenities fee will provide universities with more than $250 million over four years for much needed student amenities and services.