Greek Australian community opposes Federal Government’s university funding bill

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By Andriana Simos and Argyro Vourdoumpa.

The Federal Government has today struck a deal with South Australian minor party, Centre Alliance, to back its contentious changes to university course funding.

The government will now be able to pass the bill in time for the 2021 academic year, with the support of One Nation and Centre Alliance overcoming opposition from Labor, the Greens, and independent senators Jacqui Lambie and Rex Patrick.

The shake-up of the tertiary sector is one of the most significant in a generation and will result in sweeping changes to the way certain courses are funded.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan announced changes to how university courses were funded in June. Photo: ABC News / Matt Roberts.

The bill increases fees for some courses, including humanities and law, to fund fee cuts for other courses, such as sciences. This means that future university students in disciplines such as law and humanities will pay up to 113 percent more than current students.

The bill also proposes that university students who failed more than half of their subjects would lose access to government loans and subsidies.

In a Facebook post, Federal Member for Adelaide, Steve Georganas, criticised these proposed changes, calling them “draconian.”

“I am opposed to the Government’s changes to university fees. Now is not the time to be making it harder and more expensive to go to university. We should be supporting people to undertake further study and training,” Mr Georganas wrote.

University Fee Increases!Today, together with Tanya Plibersek and SA Labor colleagues, we articulated to the media in…

Posted by Steve Georganas MP on Monday, 5 October 2020

This opposition was backed by members of the Greek Australian community as well late this afternoon.

President of the Greek Orthodox Community of South Australia, Bill Gonis, tells The Greek Herald, that his community, along with the Greek communities of Victoria and NSW, are also “strongly opposed” to the changes.

“The Greek Orthodox Community of SA, together with the Greek communities of Victoria and NSW, are strongly opposed to the Federal Government’s proposed changes to university funding. It appears the Federal Government has struck a deal with South Australian minor party, Centre Alliance, to back its contentious changes to university course funding,” Mr Gonis says to The Greek Herald.

“The bill proposes a major restructuring of university funding by hiking fees for some courses, including by 113 per cent for humanities, to pay for cuts to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), nursing and teaching courses. This will not only impact and be catastrophic for Greek studies, it will also mean that only well-off students will take languages.

“We understand as many as 3500 South Australian school leavers would face paying $9000 or $23,000 more for their chosen university courses under Federal Government reforms. We too, believe that no Australian should miss out on the job they want, and the education they need to get it, because they can’t afford it.

“Today students are leaving university with massive debt and these proposed changes will leave students with more debt for longer. The Greek Community of South Australia strongly believes this bill will have a negative impact on South Australia’s young people, research capacity and job creation in our state.”

In the face of this criticism, Education Minister, Dan Tehan, defended the Federal Government’s proposed university funding changes, saying the legislation will actually “provide more university places for Australian students.”

“The … legislation will make it cheaper to study in areas of expected job growth and provide more funding and support to regional students and universities,” Mr Tehan said.

Only time will tell what the true impact of these changes will be.

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