FRUSTRATED: Nathan Wellington, USC Student Guild board member, and Samuel Chee, president of the University of the Sunshine Coast Student Guild are frustrated by the gap between fees and the quality of teaching.
FRUSTRATED: Nathan Wellington, USC Student Guild board member, and Samuel Chee, president of the University of the Sunshine Coast Student Guild are frustrated by the gap between fees and the quality of teaching. John McCutcheon

Students, staff, feeling the pinch of funding freeze

STUDENTS are standing in solidarity with staff, concerned about the effects of a federal funding freeze on university teaching standards and the value of their courses.

University of the Sunshine Coast Student Guild president Samuel Chee said unease was growing among the student body with the quality of education they were receiving for the money they were laying out.

He said it came as staff struggled with reduced resources and growing campuses.

"I personally don't see a separation between students and staff," Mr Chee said.

"We're all feeling it across the board at the university.

"I sympathise a lot with the staff as well as students."

The Student Guild, which represents more than 18,000 young voters across the university's campuses, has sought commitments from federal election candidates to support tertiary education.

The enrolment-based funding freeze was announced during the Federal Government's mid-year economic update in December, 2017, as it sought to make about $2.2 billion worth of savings.

Early last year the Daily reported USC had been racing to find savings of up to $21 million over the next two years.

Regional Universities Network executive director Dr Caroline Perkins said at the time she expected regional universities would be hardest hit by the government's cost-saving measures.

University of the Sunshine Coast vice-chancellor Professor Greg Hill said the university's budget had been calculated assuming cuts of about $8 million for 2018 and 2019, but that had shifted to cuts of between $15 million to $21 million after the funding freeze.

There had been concerns over the future of the university's Moreton Bay campus expansion and programs at the newly-created Bachelor of Medical Science program as a result.

The freeze had also clouded the university's $121 million federal loan for the campus expansion if it was unable to recruit students and make loan repayments.

Fisher MP Andrew Wallace said at the time that it was a funding freeze, not a cut, and universities had benefited from an increase in the rate of revenue per student since 2010.

He said the freeze was about the long-term viability of tertiary education.

The freeze was not due to end until at least 2020.

The Student Guild said students had begun to voice their anger over the "disparity between the fees they are paying for their education, and the reduction in actual teaching in the education that they are receiving".

"The Student Guild represents 18,000 strong, young voters who are the next sophisticated workforce in Queensland," a statement from the guild read.

The guild said the funding freeze had slashed 15 per cent of base funding from universities, which had ripped $21 million out of USC's budget in 2018-19.

"This cut was felt across all five campuses, affecting administrative services and reducing lecture and tutorial classes across most, if not all, degree programs," the statement read.

Mr Chee said it was "not the ideal situation" to be in and he said feedback he was receiving was that it was an issue impacting the voting decisions of students.

He said students wanted a return on their education investment and there were concerns that even if they came out with the same degree as other people, their quality of education would be at a lower level, given the growing student population and reduced resources due to the funding freeze.


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