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State Council Perspectives

Worsening Cost of Living Crisis

  • In early 2022, there was a report that stated that 42% of UTAS students reported suffering from food insecurity, that is not knowing where their next meal was coming from.
  • The Tasmanian situation has only worsened from there. With CPI hitting 7.9% in 2022, rents have increased 25% since start of 2020 across Tasmania, and key student supports such as Youth Allowance, Abstudy and Austudy are failing to maintain pace with Cost of Living, yet their HECS-HELP Debt continues to index and record rates. Students are studying during an unprecedented time for the Tasmanian community!
  • UTAS students now work an average of 26.4 hours per week, that’s a 0.67FTE job just to support themselves (for reference, that number was 5 hours in 1984 and 14 in 2000).
  • The TUSA are amid launching their own foodbank yet was denied funding (of just $100,000) by the university at years end 2022.
    • This forced the student association to seek funding through external grants, for which the results are still unknown. In the meantine, the TUSA have partnered with Loaves & Fishes to provide 50 students a week access to rescued fresh fruit and vegetables.
    • Yet the TUSA State Council concedes that this does not even scratch the surface in terms of addressing the issue.
  • The TUSA State Council is disappointed by the university’s lack of action on this issue as they speak of expanding access to lower-socioeconomic areas of Tasmania as part of their campus move, yet they are failing to adequately ensure that their existing students even have food on their table or a place to sleep at night. Furthermore, from a student’s perspective, to simply refer to tight budgetary constraints while posting profits for 2022, tells students that they are not the university’s priority.
    • The TUSA State Council will continue to fight to provide students with access to their basic huan needs of housing, food, and medical care!

Move into the City

  • The TUSA State Council is of the position that there should be no changes to the  physical location of university campuses in the South of Tasmania unless the following occurs:
    • The University of Tasmania shows a genuine and concerted effort to significantly improve communication, engagement, and transparency with students.
    • The University can show that a change in location would not adversely impact both the educational quality, or the student experience, of current students during the transformation and for new students moving into the future.
    • The University commits to making university facilities and learning environments accessible to all students.
  • The TUSA State Council continues to call on the university to improve its methods and avenues for genuine consultation processes with both current and future students.
    • Up until this moment, levels of consultation with University of Tasmania students have been sparse and tokenistic.
  • The TUSA State Council believes that the University of Tasmania is a public institution for all of Tasmania. Any decisions around future directions and locations of the university must be heavily discussed and debated in the public forum.
    • Current levels of communication, transparency, and engagement, with both University of Tasmania students, and the broader community, are significantly inadequate.

Drop in Tasmanian Enrolments

  • As reported in The Australian on the 22nd of February, the University of Tasmania has seen a 12% drop in local enrolments from 2022 to 2023.
  • The TUSA State Council is not surpried by this announcement and believes it can be strongly tied back to an increasingly disappointing student experience over the last decade.
    • This failing student experience is due to falling investment in student-led and student-ran initiatives, falling from $2.0669 million in 2013 to $1.022 million in 2022. This is a funding drop of 50.55% in student-led and ran experiences over 10 years.
    • Students understand what students need and want as part of their university experience, and fees such as the Student Services and Amenities Fee should be majority given for student-led groups to spend how they see fit.
  • The TUSA State Council believes that for the student experience to be improved, student money needs to be put back into student hands!

Tasmanian Housing Crisis

  • The TUSA State Council is a signatory on the Tenants Union of Tasmania Letter to the Premier, Jeremy Rockliff, calling for an Empty Homes Levy to be implemented in Tasmania.
  • The National Consumer Price Index saw a 7.3% increase from Sept 2021 to Sept 2022.
  • Tasmanian Weighted Median Rent Index saw an increase of 8.4%-year change increase up to Dec. 2022.
    • Yet key student supports such as Youth Allowance have only seen an indexation increase of 6.1%.
  • Out of UTAS Hobart Accommodation options, two exceed 2023 Youth Allowance “Typical total rates”, with another two sitting at 92% and 95% respectively, and the other ranging from 66% to 95% of Youth Allowance.
    • The TUSA State Council believes any method through which rentals for University of Tasmania students, and the broader community, can be created, must be thoroughly investigated.
  • The TUSA State Council has been disappointed by the response to the calls for an Empty Homes Levy by both major parties.
    • We reinforce our calls for the need for the Tasmanian Housing Crisis to be addressed through multiple avenues. All proposed methods of addressing the crisis should be investigated regardless of political views and with an open mind.
  • The TUSA State Council is expremely proud to be the Principal Petitioner on the Empty Homes Levy Parliamentary Petition.
    • As a student representative body, we believe there is power in numbers and a groundswell of support. We hope to show to Parliament that there is a real need to re-evaluate current housing policy and legislation.

The Shake Up Community Panel Report

  • The TUSA State Council welcomes the publishing of The Shake Up Community Panel Report, and mostly aligns with the key actions made by the report.
    • However, the report draws broad conclusions and makes vague recommendations that fail to provide a well-defined list to hold the university accountable to.
  • No matter the situation, campus move, or no campus move, the future of the university must include more genuine student engagement and co-design.
    • TUSA State Council acknowledges that this community consultation report is not legally binding, leaving potential for the University to not follow the report’s recommendations.
  • The TUSA State Council looks into the future with optimism and hope and will be open to working with the university in engaging with students to support a ‘co-designed’ future for the University.

Australian Universities Accord

  • The TUSA State Council welcomes the announcement of the Australian Universities Accord, and recognises that it is long overdue, being the first of its kind since 2008.
  • The Accords provide a valuable opportunity to influence federal policy and make a real positive difference for university students nationwide.
    • However, the TUSA State Council acknowledges that the Terms of Reference of the Accords fails to clearly define how the panel will consult and engage meaningfully with unions and students.
  • The TUSA State Council will work with the Accords to do their best to get the best outcomes for University of Tasmania students.

HDR Stipend Increase

  • In late 2022, UTAS announced that HDR stipends would increase from $28,500 (the minimum base rate for 2022) to $31,000 in 2023, above the minimum base rate of $29,863 for 2023, after a prolonged campaign from both HDR students and TUSA State Council representatives alike, and in following the landmark action of several other Australian universities.
  • The TUSA State Council welcomes this announcement and recognises it as a huge leap in the correct direction.
    • However, for a single person who is in the workforce (including housing), this amount still falls well below the poverty line (set at $32,063.72 annually from a 2022 Poverty Lines: Australia publication), and this difference only increases when PhD candidates also support dependents.
    • The TUSA State Council will continue to push the university to again increase this amount in 2023, and believes this is a necessary move on the part of the university to provide a good student experience and in competition with other universities across the country.

Low Completion Rates Legislation Changes

  • Changes made to Commonwealth assistance eligibility legislation (i.e., HECS loans) in 2022 mean that if a student commences a new course of study and is deemed to have a “low completion rate”, they will not be eligible for Commonwealth assistance. The legislation defines ‘low completion rate’ as a fail rate of more than 50 per cent of the units of study attempted, after attempting eight or more units of study in a bachelor level or higher course (or four or more units in a higher education course lower than a bachelor course). In other words, students will be impacted by this legislation after the first year of fulltime study of a bachelor, or half year of a shorter course.
  • The TUSA State Council disagrees with these changes to legislation. This change creates further barriers for already disadvantaged students who access higher education. It disproportionately impacts students of lower socioeconomic status, students who need to work to support themselves or care for others and students of marginalised groups who are otherwise impacted.
    • This change has the potential to place students under enormous financial pressures, which will have significant impacts on other areas of vulnerability for students, such as increased burden of mental illness.

On-Campus Learning Minimum Standards

  • In January 2023, the University of Tasmania announced that they would be introducing minimum standards for On-Campus units after strong and consistent pressure from TUSA State Council representatives. The changes mean that every on-campus unit must have a minimum average of two-contact-hours per week on-campus, over the length of the semester.
  • The TUSA State Council welcomes this announcement and recognises it as a “swing back to the middle” in the on-campus versus online learning debate.
  • The TUSA State Council acknowledges that for many students that wish to have a ‘traditional’ university experience, these standards may be viewed as inadequate, and we will continue to push the university to deliver on their “island campus” promise to students with increased learning on-campus and on Country.
    • Alongside this approach, the TUSA State Council will also push for the continued development of online units and learning, to ensure that the cohort of students who need and want the extra flexibility have access to modern and competitive online education programs.

SSAF Consultation for Students

  • Student Services and Amenities Fees (SSAF) are student funds, and students should have a defining say in how those funds are allocated. 
  • The consultation process in 2022 has been disappointing, with issues with reporting templates and TUSA did not have access to the design / development of the survey despite being a key stakeholder in the use and access to SSAF for students. 
  • As the SSAF environment at UTAS continues to evolve, it is essential that student-led initiatives, priorities and programs are put at the centre of SSAF.  
  • Students should have a seat at the table when it comes to final decision-making around SSAF as it is indeed student money. 

Parliamentary Inquiry into UTAS

  • TUSA State Council submitted a formal submission into the University of Tasmania Act 1992 Review in August 2022.
  • As the only University in our State, it is incredibly important that UTAS is transparent and accountable to not only students, but the broader community as it is a public research educational institution. 
  • Universities have changed greatly in the last 30 years. It is important to review the Act to ensure UTAS is remaining functional, relevant, and true to purpose. 
    • The State Council believes significant changes to University governance is needed, for students to be given more formal roles in decision-making and influence. 
  • A Parliamentary Inquiry by the Legislative Council is an opportunity for the University to have the concerns of the public addressed in a structured and impartial way. 
    • As there are several matters of great public concern being discussed (the move into the Hobart City, the law school, etc.), this provides a forum address well-known issues, and perhaps bring to light new ones. 
  • The TUSA State Council President was invited to make further representations to the Select Committee on December 13th. You can view the transcript from this here.

Archived Messaging

Newly Appointed TUSA Board Chairperson

  • The TUSA State Council welcomes the announcement of the appointment of the new TUSA Board Chairperson, Mr. Danny Sutton, following the approval of this appointment by the University Council and the Chancellor.
    • The TUSA State Council hold that to maintain the integrity and independence of the organisation, the choice of chairperson should be under the control of the TUSA itself, and the University of Tasmania’s students only.
  • The TUSA State Council believes that Mr Sutton’s background and experience places him well to lead the Board to ensure that TUSA delivers what is best for students, both now and into the future.

HECS-HELP Indexation Increases

  • In 2022, HECS-HELP loans were indexed at 3.9% (up from 0.6% in 2021).  
  • This has massive financial implications on students studying. Cost of living continues to rise and wage growth has stagnated. 
    • The nature of HECS-HELP as a loan with no interest means that many students don’t think about their repayments until after they graduate. 
    • This puts students at risk of being hit with significant debt that they were unaware of post-study. 
  • The 3.9% indexation makes higher education even more inaccessible for students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Students with less money will not have the freedom to pursue degrees they care about; only what they can afford. 
      • This will heavily impact diversity both in the higher education sector and in industry and the community. 

NTEU Industrial Action at UTAS

  • TUSA absolutely supports the rights of all UTAS staff to fight for better working conditions, as teaching conditions are learning conditions.
  • According to the NTEU, 50% of UTAS staff are casual.
    • Students rely on casual staff for marking, tutoring and support through their studies.
    • They are often the staff that students get to know most closely and build professional relationships and friendships with.
  • Casual staff deserve to be recognised as important members of the UTAS community by having access to:
    • Job security.
    • Pathways for career development.
    • Superannuation support and sick leave.
  • It’s important that students and staff stand together.
  • The NTEU has postponed their rally that TUSA was supporting as the University has started to make significant progress in the EA negotiations.
  • The TUSA State Council welcomes the universities announcement of an improved staff agreement after negotiations with the NTEU came to a positive conclusion.
    • The new Agreement includes:
      • A 13.5 percent pay increase over four years
        • 4.6 percent in July 2022 (already paid).
        • 3 percent July 2023.
        • 2.5 percent July 2024.
        • 3.4 percent June 2025.
      • Improved conversion of casual employees and the creation of new ongoing academic jobs.
      • Increased job security through the introduction of the Continuing Contingent Funded (CCF) employment category.
      • Simplified and enhanced leave provisions including expanded parental leave entitlements.
      • Increased gender affirmation leave to 30 days per annum.

National Student Safety Survey

  • We are incredibly disappointed in the results of the 2021 National Student Safety Survey. Any incident of sexual assault or sexual harrassment at UTAS is one too many.
  • There is student representation on the UTAS Student Safety Taskforce, to investigate how we can make UTAS campuses and accommodations safer.
    • The TUSA State Council wants cultural change to be student-led. We are considering campaigns for how to best address issues of safety on campus.
  • If you have experienced or witnessed sexual assault or sexual harrassment and need support, the Safe and Fair Community Unit and UTAS Counselling services can help. 

These messages are updated monthly, after the completion of each State Council meeting.

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