Student union rules under fire

VOLUNTARY student unionism may well become a thing of the past if a Bill put forward by Federal Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans is passed.

The Bill amends the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to allow universities to charge compulsory student union fees for services and amenities, including sports, childcare, legal services, club administration costs and promoting the health and welfare of students.

The fees would be capped at $250 per student annually and could be added to students’ Higher Education Loan Program debt.

Southern Cross University Vice-Chancellor Peter Lee said: “I hope the Senate passes the Bill.”

“If we had access to that sort of funding, student amenities, clubs and services would all benefit.”

Funding now comes from the university’s teaching and research resources for things such as the recently opened $3.6-million swimming pool. That funding would otherwise be used to upgrade IT facilities and lecture theatre equipment, Mr Lee said.

“The learning that takes place as part of the clubs and sporting activities would be greatly enhanced by (compulsory) funding,” Mr Lee said.

Federal Page MP Janelle Saffin said: “I, too, support it. I have done so before, when it got knocked down, but we will try again to get it through.”

Lexis Union of Students president James Moylan said it was great to see the amendments to the Bill were partially overturning the Act put through by the Howard Government.

“Yes, we would have great football teams, great netball and basketball teams, but no political activism,” Mr Moylan said.

If the Bill is passed the changes would come into effect for the 2011 academic year.

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