University fee changes would be 'disaster', students warn

AUSTRALIAN university students have warned that deregulating fees would be a disaster, denying access to people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The National Union of Students (NUS) has responded to calls by ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young and Chancellor Professor Gareth Evans for the deregulation of student fees, saying it would be a disaster for students.

"Deregulating fees would enable universities to charge students through the nose for their education.

"Students already graduate with almost a decade's worth of debt to repay, and deregulating fees would only increase that debt burden."

Deanna Taylor said increases to fees would mean people from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds would be even more disadvantaged.

"Fee deregulation would have devastating consequences for the accessibility of education for people who already have obstacles to education.

"The argument that the HECS-HELP system means student fees are a negligible issue is absurd.

"An income-contingent loan scheme is way to support students in paying their fees. It is not an excuse to gouge more money out of students' pockets and leave them crippled with debt."

She echoed the Professor Ian Young's sentiments of wanting Australian universities to offer a world-class education, but said that fee deregulation was not the answer.

"NUS acknowledges that universities face funding pressure in order to deliver a quality education. But the government should not be absolved of its responsibility to invest in public education by passing the buck to students."