Griffith postgraduates deeply concerned about 2014 budget


We, the postgraduate students community at Griffith University, are deeply concerned about the possible implications of the 2014 federal budget, handed down by treasurer Joe Hockey on Tuesday.

As things stand, this budget would mean that:

  • Australian citizens who wish to undertake Higher Degree Research may have to pay tuition fees of up to $3,900 per year.
  • Public universities will be free to set the price of their education at any level they deem appropriate, which could result in substantially increased tuition fees for postgraduate coursework students.
  • Graduates will have to pay back their Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) debts sooner, at an interest rate of up to 6%.

And that’s just the beginning. This budget is likely to:

  • Deter talented school leavers from enrolling at university due to financial constraints and the prospect of high debts.
  • Deter professionals from upskilling at a university level due to financial constraints and the prospect of high debts.
  • Promote the creation of a class divide between educational institutes with US-style colleges and elite universities.

Although some may argue that the treasurer announced some positive plans as well, in our view, these are nothing but sweeteners that can hardly remove the bitter taste of the rest of the budget. A budget which appears to be driven by neo-liberal ideology and the promotion of US-style market liberalisation rather than a genuine desire to bring Australia’s balance sheet back into the black and advance our society.

Higher education is not simply a commodity but an essential building block of a vibrant, prosperous nation both economically and socially. As postgraduate students at Griffith University, we value equality and inclusiveness. A university degree should depend on intellectual capabilities, and not on the depth of your purse.

While its ultimate consequences are difficult to predict, we fear that this budget will be the first step towards a higher education system based on exclusion and elitism rather than a fair go. We don’t want that to happen.

We call upon the university executive led by our patron and vice-chancellor Ian O’Connor, as well as the university council, to actively stand up for the interests of postgraduate students by lobbying both the education minister, Christopher Pyne, and senators of all parties, against the proposed changes.

Should the budget be implemented in its current form, we ask the university executive to do everything they possibly can to mitigate its impact, and ensure that Griffith University retains its unique, social character and continues to provide the best possible learning and working environment for students and staff.

Meanwhile, we will closely collaborate with the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) and our fellow postgraduate organisations, both local and interstate, as well as other higher education student, staff and organisational representative bodies, local and national, to ensure that our voice is heard.

Niels Kraaier
GUPSA President

Click here to download a PDF version of the above statement.