The $2.3 billion cuts to the higher education sector as part of the 2013/14 budget have placed increased pressure on the University of Wollongong’s five-year plan to reach the top one per cent in global rankings.

UOW’s Chief Finance Officer, Damien Israel, said the management team has been grappling with the announcement and is working through various options to close the financial gap.

“We do have a finance strategy and are looking at the impacts of the decision,” said Israel.

“We are keen to do whatever is necessary to stay with our strategy and achieve its goals,”

The government announced an $18 billion deficit for the next financial year and cuts to the higher education sector include no longer offering discounts to students who pay their fees up front. Those who receive equity scholarships will now also have to pay them back through a loan system.

The 2013/14 budget does however involve a boost to national school funding, leaving some university students feeling like they have been handed the short straw.

Ben Anderson who’s parents pay his fees rather than leaving him to rely on HECS, believes the changes are just making debt look more attractive.

“I think that there’s no incentive for anyone to pay upfront anymore,” he said.

“My parents were doing it because they thought it’d help me out later in life. It’s saved me over $800 every session. I don’t think it’s a good idea offering 17 to 21-year-olds these massive debts that will take ages for people to pay back.”

Damien Israel said UOW has a financial model in regards to future enrolments to the university. It includes increasing places for postgraduate study and supporting pre-university initiatives for students, such as the IN2UNI program and foundation studies through UOW’s college.

The Labor government has also announced a $96.7 million plan to increase university places by 1650 each year, targeting languages and teacher education.

“We definitely want to maintain standards and quality and not make it harder for people to attend university, but not make it easier in terms of lowering the entry requirements,” Israel said.

“We are looking at what sort of enrolments we would need, international and domestic, to close that financial gap.”

Words: SARAH NAVIN
Video: DOMINIQUE MCGOVERN
Pictures: HARRISON CONDOR VESEY

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