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State Council Perspectives

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.
    • The TUSA State Council is actively working with the Hobart City Council to ensure that we are at the table in ongoing conversations regarding the city move.

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.

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 “swingback 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.

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. 
  • The TUSA State Council is strongly disappointed in this announcement and pushes for either an abolition of indexation or a reconsideration on how indexation is decided annually.

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. 
  • The TUSA State Council further believes that the University must be held to the same level of reporting and transparency as the TUSA, when it comes to SSAF spending. Students should have access to these details to allow them to inform their perspectives on where their fees should be spent.

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.

Online Learning

  • Students tell us the most valuable part of face-to-face classes is the opportunity to meet and network with their lecturers, peers and friends. 
  • UTAS said they are moving back to on-campus learning, but students are experiencing disconnected online content with varying levels of face-to-face classes. 
  • The TUSA State Council call on the University to provide flexibility in learning – a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not provide a good learning environment in every school. 
    • Innovation in teaching pedagogy should not come at the expense of current student’s learning experiences. 
    • UTAS should not be re-using any previous lecture content in delivering online lectures. Teaching staff should be supported to be able to deliver online-tailored information and productive in-person tutorials/workshops. 

Move into the City

  • The consultation on the move into the city has been disappointing, with a large number of financial decisions made well before the ‘announcement’ in 2019.  
  • The TUSA State Council believes the move is likely going to go ahead.
  • Our focus is to ensure the campus(es) will be the best they can be for all UTAS students by giving students a voice in shaping the campus and holding UTAS accountable to real consultation. 
    • We want to ensure the proposed campuses will be as good as they can be, while ensuring the high-quality educational experience of current students.  
  • The TUSA State Council continue to call on UTAS to provide a genuine consultation process for students to provide feedback, ideas, and concerns. 

National Student Safety Survey

  • The TUSA State Council are incredibly disappointed in the results of the 2021 National Student Safety Survey. Any incident of sexual assault or sexual harassment at UTAS is one too many. 
  • There is student representation on the UTAS Student Safety Taskforce, to look into 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. 

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

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