- Sarita Perston
The UNE Council has decided not to charge the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) to external students as of Trimester 1, 2014.
The SSAF was introduced in 2012 following federal legislation permitting universities to choose to charge the fee, providing that it was spent within a specified framework of services and amenities beneficial to students and student life.
Over 18,000 students will now longer pay the fee. To date, a full-time external has paid a $187 yearly fee (in 2013) and an equivalent internal has paid $267.
Vice-Chancellor Jim Barber justifies the decision as meaning off-campus students are not paying for “services they neither want nor need”.
However UNESA President David Mailler says that the move jeopardises what the student community has been building towards. “SSAF was helping the rebuild of student fraternity on which the UNE brand is based… The trust that the UNE administration had developed with UNESA is now on shaky ground and some projects that UNESA was working on are in jeopardy over the decision,” Mr Mailler explained.
The announcement was made three days after confirmation that key student services, including Tune!FM, independent student advocacy, and the Secondhand Bookshop, are to be the responsibility of UNESA.
However, Prof. Barber has admitted to The Australian that the decision not to charge externals the fee meant that ‘the budget of the students’ association would “take a haircut”’ and that ‘it would be up to the students’ association to decide what services it dropped.’
The UNESA President also highlighted the divide that has been created between internal and external students. “A two-tier student experience, external and internal, is a blow to the collegiality that the Student Association has been working to rebuild… There may now be much fewer resources to fund those amenities.” One example of SSAF-funded service is the independent student advocate, who provides advice and assistance and currently represents all students.
But in an email to all staff Jim Barber has stated that “We expect that any revenue lost to core services subsidized by SSAF will be offset by growth in UNE’s market share. Moreover, the University has committed to reinstating funding for those services that it provided prior to the imposition of SSAF.”
Internal students may well question if this means whether they will continue to pay SSAF for services that the University will be covering for external students.
More information on the SSAF at UNE can be found at http://www.une.edu.au/study/fees/student-services-and-amenities-fee
and a list of proposed and confirmed expenditure at http://www.une.edu.au/for/current-students/costs/ssaf-updates.pdf.
Also see the article in Nucleus Issue 7 http://www.nucleus.org.au/articles/hey-ssaf-where-you-at/