DEAKIN University says some students will be worse off under sweeping federal budget changes to the tertiary sector.
In a letter to students and staff on Friday, Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander appealed for calm but revealed the university had campaigned against deregulation.
Universities will be able to set their own course fees under changes due to kick in from 2016.
“It is true that we argued against additional fee deregulation,” Professor den Hollander wrote.
“We lobbied for consistent investment in higher education. And we remain convinced that a world class and equitable higher education system requires strong and consistent policy and long-term government investment.”
Professor den Hollander told The Standard it was still unclear how deregulation would impact smaller regional campuses such as Warrnambool.
But she issued a blunt warning about poorer students being locked out of campuses.
“Deregulating fees has the potential to create an inequitable system that could lock out many lower socio-economic students.
“It is in our national interest to ensure those future students have the education they deserve and our country has the smart and well-educated population it needs,” she said.
“Many regional students are sensitive to costs and fee deregulation has the potential to increase costs of education across Australia.”
Other regional universities like the University of Newcastle have already expressed worry at the fee overhaul, which could see spiralling increases in course fees.
The head of Victoria’s tertiary union said smaller and regional campuses will likely close as young people look elsewhere for an education.
“I’d expect whole universities to close or merge ... certainly at regional campuses,” National Tertiary Education Union state secretary Dr Colin Long said.
Huge course costs will see campuses bleed student numbers to smaller colleges, he said.
“Warrnambool has struggled for a long time to get the numbers. There will be pressure on the research of smaller universities. People will go to smaller colleges.”