The University of Newcastle, Australia

What is happening to university fees?

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Choosing a university to commence or continue your higher education journey is an exciting time. It's natural to have many questions and we're here to provide you with information we hope is helpful.

university fees story

The Government announced proposed changes to higher education funding and regulation in the 2014 Federal Budget. These proposals have created some uncertainty for prospective students, so here's some information to help you understand the current situation. Please note that this information is subject to change, so check in regularly to find out more about how the proposed changes may affect you. You can also visit the Australian Government Department of Education students FAQs for more information.

The changes proposed have significant implications for Australian universities and students from 1 January 2016.  Fees for Australian undergraduate students studying in 2015 are not affected by the proposed legislation.

Students that enrolled at the University of Newcastle on or before 13 May 2014, or those that accepted a place and elected to defer on or before 13 May 2014, will continue to be charged under the existing arrangements until they graduate, or until the end of 2020, whichever is sooner.

Those students that either enrolled or opted to defer their place after 13 May 2014, or those planning to enrol in future, are expected to be impacted by the proposed changes to university funding. Detailed information on fees from 2016 for this group of students will be provided as soon as it is available.

Have the Government's proposed changes to the university sector been passed?

On 2 December, the Senate voted not to support the Government's proposed reforms to the university sector, that were originally announced in the federal Budget in May.

Among other measures, these reforms would have reduced Commonwealth funding to universities by approximately 20 per cent, increased indexation of HELP loans from CPI to the Government's 10-year bond rate, and introduced fee deregulation across Commonwealth-supported bachelor and sub-bachelor degrees.

What happens now that the proposed changes have been voted down by the Senate?

The Minister for Education, the Hon. Christopher Pyne MP, has introduced a new bill to Parliament. This will be considered by the Senate in early 2015 in the hope of gaining the support of sufficient cross-bench Senators.

What are the amendments to the Government's proposed changes to the university sector likely to include?

The new Bill, which the Parliament will be asked to consider, still contains the 20 per cent cuts to Commonwealth funding but is likely to include the following amendments:

  • HELP loans to be indexed at CPI rates (rather than the higher government bond rate)
  • Interest rates paused for five years for graduates that are parents or primary carers for children under 5 years old
  • Fees charged by universities will be monitored by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and those fees charged to Australian students may not exceed fees charged to international students.
  • Special scholarships to be created for students from disadvantaged, regional and rural backgrounds
  • Creation of a fund to help some universities transition to a deregulated market

Please note that the proposals including these amendments have not been passed by the Parliament, and are unlikely to be subject to a vote in the Senate until February 2015, so check in regularly to keep up to date with progress.

When will the revised Bill be debated in the Senate?

The Senate's first sitting in 2015 is expected to take place on Monday 9 February. The reforms are expected to be debated shortly after that date.

How will I be affected by the changes to university funding if I choose to study at the University of Newcastle?

There are several aspects of the Government's reforms which remain uncertain, including fee deregulation, meaning universities across Australia are uncertain of likely fee levels in 2016 and beyond.

However, it is important to remember that under the Government's proposals, no student will be expected to pay their fees upfront. The Government also intends to establish Commonwealth Scholarships for students from more disadvantaged backgrounds, which may mean many more students are able to attend university at reduced cost.

It is also important to note that fees for Australian undergraduate students will remain at their existing levels for study in 2015.

The University of Newcastle understands the current uncertainty around proposed changes to the university sector creates anxiety for students and families.

In seeking the best outcomes for our students, we will continue to monitor the progress of this critical legislation and engage with political stakeholders to express our concern at the ongoing uncertainty around funding

We will communicate any changes as soon as possible when further information is available.

Need to know more?

To speak to a UON staff member, contact UON Enquiries on +61 02 4921 5000.

For further information, visit the Australian Government Department of Education students FAQs.