Students say they’re locked in a David and Goliath battle with universities over how to spend student services fees.


The National Union of Students (NUS) says many universities aren’t properly consulting students on how to best spend student services and amenities fees (SSAF).

“Sometimes it does feel like a bit of a David and Goliath scenario where you have the university with all the funding pool, with most of the power when it comes to distribution,” NUS president Jade Tyrrell told AAP.

“Then you have the David in the form of the students and the student organisations trying to fight for the funding.”

She says students must control their own affairs to guarantee independent voices and advocacy.

The University of Newcastle is one of 18 universities the NUS says have taken over student services or service providers since 2006.

At its Ourimbah campus, student association Campus Central (CC) has been denied any SSAF funds for 2013.

The organisation believes the cut is part of a university campaign to reduce the number of student associations across its four main campuses.

“We believe that one of the main aims of the university is trying … to remove those organisations that are independent and aren’t just bowing down to the university’s wants and demands,” CC president Liam Grant told AAP.

“SSAF is such a big deal for universities now in regards to this large amount of money coming through.”

University of Newcastle deputy vice-chancellor Andrew Parfitt has told CC the university has no intention of seeking to control student representative bodies.

AAP made repeated attempts to contact the university but received no response.

CC now believes the university is actively trying to erode its revenue base by opening a coffee shop that undercuts prices of the cafes the student association runs.

The situation has forced CC to sack almost a third of its staff – many of whom are students – lift prices, shorten opening hours and reduce its student advocacy and support services.

“The only impact that the students have seen is a negative impact,” CC chief executive Michael Maas said.

Mr Maas and Mr Grant say CC tried repeatedly to get details from university management about what it thinks is wrong with the organisation.

Mr Maas said it was a typical David and Goliath fight.

“They’re just coming in and steamrolling us,” he said.

“But we’ll go out fighting so that the students on this campus and on every other campus in Australia will know that what the University of Newcastle is doing is not right.”

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