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Vice Chancellor expresses concern at the scrapping of federal scholarships for disadvantaged students.



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PETER CAVE: One Australian university concerned about the impact of scrapping federal scholarships for disadvantaged students is the University of Western Sydney. That university’s vice chancellor, Jan Reid(?), told Toni Hassan it’s a blow for the battlers who might be now discouraged from furthering their studies.

 

JAN REID: The scholarship scheme is not a large one, but it’s vital to our area, to Greater Western Sydney, because we have a large number of students and potential students who come from very disadvantaged backgrounds.

 

TONI HASSAN: How many of your students would receive these federal-funded merit based scholarships?

 

JAN REID: We have about 146 students receiving the scholarships. We cover an area that has a population that’s a tenth of Australia’s population. The greater west is a very big area.

 

TONI HASSAN: If those students are vital to the life of your institution, can you afford to pick up the tab to ensure that they stay?

 

JAN REID: We already provide support from our own resources for quite a large number of students, but we couldn’t possibly afford to pick up the full group of scholarships that are covered under the equity and merit scheme. And I think there is no doubt that we would lose students and very able people who would like to come to university but just would be unable to support that level of debt.

 

TONI HASSAN: When HECS was introduced, was this part of the agreement that at least to offset the impact of the cost of going to a tertiary institution the government would introduce these merit-based scholarships for poor students?

 

JAN REID: Oh yes, that was quite explicit.

 

TONI HASSAN: Do you think the government is reneging on that commitment?

 

JAN REID: Yes, I do. I’d be very concerned about it. We at the University of Western Sydney, would be making very strong representations to government about this.

 

TONI HASSAN: Do you understand Dr Kemp’s difficult position, though, of finding extra savings in this budget?

 

JAN REID: I do understand, but universities are doing a lot more with a lot less. But the most important people in the universities are our students.

 

PETER CAVE: Jan Reid, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Western Sydney.