Background

From 27 March to 15 April 2013 the University held a consultation process, giving all students an opportunity to provide feedback on the allocation of the funds collected through the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF). In total, 977 responses were received.

Figures 1 – 4 below provide a breakdown of the total number of responses received by faculty, degree level, campus, and study load.

Figure 1: Responses by Faculty

Figure 1: Responses by Faculty


Figure 2: Responses by degree level

Figure 2: Responses by degree level


Figure 3: Responses by campus

Figure 3: Responses by campus


Figure 4: Responses by study load

Figure 4: Responses by study load


Summary of Responses

From the 977 responses received, the following key themes emerged:

  • 43% did not feel that they had realised any personal benefit from the SSAF;
  • 22% felt that students who were not studying at the Parkville Campus should either be exempted from paying SSAF or be charged a reduced SSAF amount;
  • 14% felt that SSAF should be optional / user pays, e.g. like the previous UMSU membership;
  • 11% felt the SSAF amount the University charged was too expensive;
  • 6% felt that it was unfair that law students had to pay for the fee when it is represented by the Law Students Society (LSS), which is not affiliated with the GSA and does not receive SSAF funding;
  • 5% were concerned that SSAF funds were being used for political purposes by UMSU; and
  • 4% felt that SSAF funds should be earmarked by faculty.

Another point made was that many of the services provided tend to only benefit a minority of the student population, for example Children’s Services. Respondents also expressed that services were mostly targeted at fulltime undergraduate students who are based at the Parkville Campus, and that postgraduate (especially RHD) students, part-time students, and students who are not based at the Parkville Campus do not receive a fair share of the benefits.

Suggestions for the Allocation of SSAF Funds

At a general level, respondents appeared to favour providing more services to the non-Parkville campuses. Many respondents also suggested revising the current ‘simple’ fee structure to include additional classes of fees that take into account the diversity of student types, perhaps charging some students at a pro-rata rate. In particular, it was suggested this revised fee structure should reduce the fee amount that non-Parkville Campus and part-time students are charged. It would also not require students based overseas on exchange, or students that have deferred for the year, to pay the fee. Students also expressed that they would like to have more input in the decision-making on how SSAF funds are spent, potentially through a referendum, survey or small student workshops.

It should be noted that the suggestions provided covered the whole spectrum of opinion and that, as such, they were often diametrically opposed. For example, some students suggested allocating more funds to student clubs, where as others wanted them to receive a lesser share.

Current SSAF funded services that received broad support from respondents included Students@Work, Student Connect, Wellbeing Services, and subsidised gym memberships. Students also felt that money should be prioritised for spending on core services such as financial aid, healthcare services, student housing, academic skills and UniWireless.

Additional suggestions for the allocation of funds included the following:

  • providing more designated study spaces, student lounges, and areas for relaxing as the current ones tend to be overcrowded;
  • discounted dental services and perhaps a dental consultant for checkups and simple questions about dental hygiene;
  • more undercover bike racks;
  • more computers, laptop hire and 24/7 access to computer labs;
  • free printing allocations;
  • more after hours activities and support services for part-time students;
  • subsidised locker hire;
  • more specialised support for overseas students;
  • public transport concessions / semester public transport tickets; and
  • campus safety initiatives, such as better lighting and security.

Another suggestion not specifically relating to the allocation of funds included better communication of what services the funds are being spent on so that students are more aware of how their contributions are benefitting themselves and other students.

Next Steps

The University is taking on board the feedback from students, and suggestions for future allocations of SSAF funding. Actions include:

  • physical and IT infrastructure (for example, study and social spaces, bike racks and campus safety) incorporated into the current campus master planning process (#makemyuni) and associated infrastructure planning
  • working with the student associations and MUSUL through our regular consultative mechanisms to address student services issues and suggestions (for example, activities and support for part time students; dental services; international student support; locker hire);
  • working with the student associations to improve our communication to students in relation to how SSAF funds are spent and how students benefit from the services provided.

Notwithstanding the comments from a number of students about the way in which the University has structured SSAF, there are no plans at this stage to alter the approved fee structure. It should be noted that a number of variations have been approved since the Fee was introduced, exempting various categories of students from being charged. Many student services supported through SSAF funds are available to all students, regardless of campus and course type – for example, the Student Union Advocacy Service. For this reason the University deems it appropriate that the majority of students be charged the SSAF to ensure that these important services are able to continue.

It is also the case that funding allocations to UMSU and GSA, based on the approved fee structure, are governed by funding agreements in place for the five year period 2012 – 2016, ensuring these commitments are not easily altered in the short term.



Neil Robinson

Academic Registrar
August 2013

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