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Tuesday, 10 December 2002
Page: 7533

To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate assembled in Parliament:

The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia shows the widespread opposition to the deregulation of university fees within the Australian community.

We, the undersigned, believe that deregulation of university fees would:

Prevent many academically talented students from undertaking university study simply because they come from a disadvantaged or lower to middle socio-economic background. It has been shown that the current HECS system already prevents many of these potential students from taking up a position at university. Therefore, if fees were to increase any further, as they certainly would with deregulation, many more potential students would be put in this unfortunate position. This has been shown in New Zealand where deregulating university fees led to a devastating fee increase of 92% between 1991 and 1999.

Lead to the emergence of elite institutions that are inaccessible to many students. Competition, caused by deregulation, will mean that well-established and well-respected universities, such as the Group of Eight, will charge much higher fees than other universities. Thus, the possibility of attending these institutions will become out of reach for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Lead to an increase in the already massive levels of student debt and student poverty.

Reduce diversity within student populations. Under deregulation prestigious and expensive courses such as dentistry, medicine, law and veterinary science would attract students from a very narrow, wealthy section of society. This would undermine diversity not only at university but also within these professions in the wider community.

Your petitioners therefore ask the Senate to:

Reject any moves towards the deregulation of university fees.

Ensure that there is an immediate injection of public funds to at least bring Australia's university sector in line with average OECD expenditure.

Re-introduce a system of HECS equity scholarships to allow people from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter tertiary education.

by Senator Webber (from 243 citizens).