The University of New England has slashed the cost of education for its online students, announcing that it will scrap the Student Services and Amenities Fee for more than 18,000 external students from Trimester 1 next year.
UNE Vice-Chancellor Jim Barber has issued the challenge to government to remove regulatory obstacles to lowering the cost of university education by allowing universities to unbundle further services that students neither want nor need.
“While most traditional universities around the world continue to press their governments for more funding, UNE is trying to move in the other direction.
“We are making the most of the opportunities of digital technology and developing innovative methods of educational delivery to ensure that we remain competitive in the global marketplace for online students.
“UNE now has the highest percentage of students studying in an entirely online mode in Australia. Why should those students pay extra fees for premium services that are primarily intended for students studying on campus?”
“Under the SSAF legislation we are obligated to negotiate with our students about how the funds are expended and the evidence we have to date suggests that SSAF has been of less benefit to online students than we had originally anticipated.
“UNE consistently achieved a 5-star rating in student satisfaction – every single year – even after voluntary student unionism was introduced in 2006. So I’m confident that UNE will still be leading the nation for student satisfaction in the years ahead, and we’ll be doing so at a lower price.
Professor Barber said the abolition of the SSAF for external students was a first step toward unbundling the optional costs of a university education.
“University students around the country are increasingly voting with their feet and not showing up to class, yet we continue to slug them for our services whether they use them or not. This is a pretty inefficient way to run any enterprise let alone a service industry.”
“The global education market is moving inexorably in the unbundled direction, meaning that Australian universities will become uncompetitive if they don’t modify their traditional business practices.
“UNE has made a move towards greater global competitiveness and we’d be prepared to go further if the national regulator would allow it.”