New Zealanders call Australia’s university fee hike an ‘act of bastardry’

New Zealanders say they will be disadvantaged by a decision to make them pay full fees at Australian universities. (Photograph: Paul Miller/AAP)


The proposal for New Zealand students to no longer receive fee subsidies available to domestic university students was not passed into legislation.

Fee hike an ‘act of bastardry’

02 May 2017

Naaman Zhou – The Guardian

New Zealand citizens in Australia have attacked a drastic increase in student fees under the Turnbull government’s higher education changes as “an act of bastardry”.

As part of the university funding changes announced on Monday, New Zealand students will no longer receive commonwealth fee subsidies available to domestic students, forcing them to bear the full cost of their degrees.

The New Zealand prime minister, Bill English, said he was “pretty unhappy” with the changes, and was disappointed with a pattern of “announcements made either without telling us or at short notice”, after being ambushed by recent changes to citizenship pathways that affected New Zealanders.

The cost of undergraduate degrees for New Zealand students at Australian universities may quadruple under the changes. For a New Zealand student enrolled at the University of Melbourne, an arts degree would jump from $6,349 a year to $29,632 and a science degree from $9,050 to $35,824.

New Zealand students would be allowed to defer their payment by accessing student loans, but with a 25% loan fee, to be calculated from the increased price.

The chairman of the advocacy group Oz Kiwi, Tim Gassin, said New Zealanders had been “gobsmacked” by the changes.

“It’s always been the case that students can move freely across the Tasman. Now some are looking at student debts in the hundreds of thousands and it’s just absurd.

“I’ve had messages from people who saw the news today and almost cried. They don’t want their kids to leave uni with these huge debts which are completely unexpected.”

A release from the Department of Education said access to loans, which were previously unavailable to New Zealand students, would attract an estimated 60,000 new enrolments, but Gassin said the loans were inadequate compensation for increased fees.

“They’re trying to sell this as some great act of generosity when it’s really an act of bastardry to New Zealand and New Zealanders. I’d say that a lot of the families affected would say this was offensive to sell it as some act of generosity.”

On Twitter Oz Kiwi asked the education minister, Simon Birmingham, whether the Australian government wanted to “pick another fight” with its near neighbour.

The new laws would apply from January 2018. The 20,000 New Zealand students now enrolled on supported places would not be affected, the department said.

English said the NZ foreign minister, Gerry Brownlee, would meet his Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop, next week to discuss the situation and prevent “a mutual arms war to see who can treat each other’s citizens worse”.

Gassin said he expected the attitudes of New Zealanders and the media to be “quite damning”.

“With the citizenship changes there was all this talk in the New Zealand media about whether the Anzac spirit meant anything. Citizenship changes came up five days before Anzac Day, and now this has came seven days after. All these Australian politicians go up and say how we’re all family and then turn around and do this.”

NZ Labour’s education spokesman, Chris Hipkins, asked on Tuesday whether “the bromance was over” between the two countries.

“The Australian government has walked all over us again,” he said. “All we want is a fair deal with our closest neighbours, but once again it feels like we’re getting the short end of the stick.”

A New Zealand parent, Deidre Robb, said on Facebook she was sending her two teenagers back to New Zealand to study and expected “a huge influx of people going back to NZ because of this”. Lisa Schofield said the change would be “devastating and will be life-changing for so many families like my own”.

Paul Hamer, a research associate at Victoria University in Wellington, said on Twitter it would drive students back to New Zealand to study.

The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations said on Tuesday the changes had created a “double standard”.

“New Zealanders will be left short-changed as a result of these changes, forking out thousands more dollars to study in Australia,” they said. “Student loans in Australia won’t go nearly far enough to make up for the additional cost of full fees. There exists a double standard when Australian students are entitled to domestic fees here, yet New Zealanders no longer will get the same entitlement in Australia.”

In 2015 New Zealand citizens who arrived in Australia as minors and had remained for 10 years were made eligible for student loans, accounting for roughly 1,800 enrolments in 2016.

Australia’s Department of Education confirmed to the Guardian that current students in supported places could be forced to pay full fees if they changed their degree or re-enrolled.

“A student who changes course of study or re-enrols would be enrolling in a fee-paying place under the new arrangements that commence from 1 January 2018, subject to the passage of legislation,” it said in a statement.

“It is intended that currently enrolled New Zealand citizens will be able to continue their current course of study under the same arrangements, in a commonwealth supported place but without a HELP loan. A reasonable amount of time will be provided for those students to complete their current course of study, for example five years, subject to consultation with the sector and the passage of legislation.”

[Read the Guardian article].

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