How tertiary education fee deregulation could affect your degree

June 02, 2014
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Education regulation is unfortunately shaping up to be one of the biggest #auspol stories of 2014, following the government's controversial deregulation of tertiary fees and major cuts to funding in the last Federal budget.

On Sunday, Education Minister Christopher Pyne said he expects tertiary deregulation to lead to lower fees in some instances due to that age old ideal of market competition. This gaffe admittedly sounded pretty unsubstantiated, given conflicting statements made by several Group of Eight universities over the very same weekend.

These financial hypotheses made by Go8 universities hugely concern prospective Arts, Law, Engineering and Science students, with fees set to soar by up to 60 per cent in some areas. So, if you're planning on enrolling in a degree, diploma or postgraduate course in the next few years, read on and maybe start counting your pennies.

Given that proposed fee increases would only take effect in 2016, current Year 12 students might want to reconsider 2015 gap years, and opt instead to enrol in undergrad degrees while lower fee programs are still in place. Self-discovery and travel are totally overrated, right?

HUMANITIES

The age old stereotype of the financially stressed gender and cultural studies student that resorts to working in McDonald's could become more accurate, with fee hikes being predicted across the board for Arts and Social Sciences degrees.

The University of Melbourne’s vice-chancellor Glyn Davis is claiming that a 45 per cent increase in fees will be necessary to make up the potential shortfall in government funding for the social sciences. But he also noted that humanities could be among the few “winners” of the proposed changed funding model.

This doesn't make a huge lot of sense unless you understand the difference between the two blurred fields of study – at the University of Sydney they’re all part of the same faculty, but apparently there’s a distinction somewhere.

JOURNALISM

As reported yesterday by The Sydney Morning Herald, the cost of a Media & Communications degree at the University of Sydney could jump from just over $18,000 to about $37,000.

Sydney students won’t be the only ones doing it tough: prospective journo undergrads at The University of Queensland could find their ideal course abolished altogether due to decreased demand, according to reports in the ABC.

In response this news, aspiring journos could look to Robin Scherbatsky – the thinking journalist’s role model – for direction?

MEDICINE

As Hijacked learned when we spoke to final year med student Victoria Cox, placements and associated travel costs can make Medicine degrees pretty expensive to begin with. According to experts cited in The SMH, the cost of medicine degrees around the country could now triple in cost under fee deregulations.

Last month, Professor Chapman, the director of policy impact at the Australian National University, went further by estimating that medicine students could be shelling out $120,000 for their degrees – a far cry from the current $24,000 bill. The NTEAU has even claimed that med degrees could cost up to $180,000.

Medicine is usually regarded as a financially lucrative field, but even a six figure sum does seem a bit excessive. Our advice to prospective med students: dance the pain away.
MATHEMATICS

Along with the humanities, maths was flagged by Glyn Davis as one of the “winners” of the budget’s reallocation of funding. Fairfax’s The Daily Life is reporting that fees for maths students could fall by 26.3 per cent.

So, while most other students are crying salty tears into their bank statements, maths students could be counting their preserved cash, and possibly making pretty graphs about the extra dosh gained when they pop said cash in an account with a variable interest rate.

ENGINEERING

In the words of American engineer James Kip Finch: “the engineer has been, and is, a maker of history”. Australia may soon be on the wrong side of history, however, with The SMH reporting a potential massive spike in the cost of engineering, environmental and agricultural studies degrees.

Over at The University of NSW, acting Vice Chancellor Iain Martin has bad news for aspiring engineers. “The size of our engineering faculty in particular means that for us there is an overall cut of 24 per cent in government funding,” he said. The University of Sydney has also said the cost of a three year bachelor in environmental systems for domestic students will likely rise to $42,405 from the current rate of $25,839.

Heading southward, The University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Glyn Davis expects fees for engineering degrees will climb by at least 60 per cent. (Yes, you read that correctly.) So, if you’re studying a Bachelor of Science with a civil systems engineering major, you’ll be paying about $38,772 compared to the former rate of $24,082.

Not quite sure how Tony is planning on executing his many grand infrastructure plans without new engineers coming through the ranks.   

SCIENCE

It’s been a tough few months for aspiring Albert Einsteins. First the Abbott government scrapped the government’s Science portfolio and several other programs, and now their education cuts could spell a 54 per cent fee increase for science students at The University of Melbourne.

Put that in the growing category of rising things, along with sea levels – a dilemma that science nerds might actually have a solution for – and Christopher Pyne’s ego.

LAW

There hasn’t been any specific comments in the media yet about changes to law degrees under the new reregulated system. However, the National Tertiary Education Union predicted last week that law, dentistry and engineering degrees could cost over $100,000 – and the cost of all degrees on average will double. Yeesh.

In findings published by The SMH, Andrew Norton from the Grattan Institute Higher Education program suspects that annual fees for a law degree will rise, on average, from $9792 to $37,831 a year.

BUSINESS

Norton has also said a business degree would rise from $9792 to $21,058 – or even more at elite Go8 tertiary institutions.

In the same SMH report, RMIT policy analyst Gavin Moodie said he expects “other institutions and programs will follow with doubled fees and the leaders will increase their fees even further” if the price leaders maintain most of their student demand.

In summary, everybody but prospective maths students might need to take a bubble bath and zone the hell out for a while.

John Rowley & Kristen Daly

Image: Kristen Daly

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