More voices have added to the furore over changes to lift university fee arrangements.

Changes will be made to deregulate university fees, a move the Treasurer says was needed to let local universities “compete with the best in the world”.

But Universities Australia (UA) – a representative group covering Australia’s 39 universities – says the changes may work to drive people away. 

Now, the vice-chancellor of the University of new South Wales, Fred Hilmer, has described the modelling “... on the impact on fees of changes to cluster funding rates” as being “based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the way the system works”.

“It is up to universities, not Canberra, to decide what fees should apply to which courses. The funding by cluster is simply a way of generating a total sum of money that the Commonwealth is prepared to contribute for the teaching of Australian students in Commonwealth supported places,” he said in a statement this week.

“The way in which those sums are distributed across disciplines is entirely up to the universities, as are the fees that a university would seek to charge on top.”

“The 20 per cent cut in government funding drives an increase of 30 per cent in student contributions. As the UA paper indicates, on average the amount of funding per student is reduced by $2,251.

“Therefore an average increase of $2,251 would be required to compensate. It is up to the university concerned whether a disproportionate amount comes from some faculties or whether it applies the increase of $2,251 to each course on a uniform basis.

“Nothing in the legislation impacts the university’s discretion to do this.”