Public health governance:
Politics of participation, decision-making
University education in Australia has always been reliant on governments for funding. But recent reforms have seen this level of funding drop to about 40 per cent of actual costs. This has forced universities to raise funds by moving to a partial user-pays system through Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) fees. This means that students now have the choice of accumulating an average annual debt of $8–10 000, or paying up front. Is a user-pays system the most effective and equitable use of scarce taxpayer resources? Should the government funding be increased to make university education free? Should your decision be based on the benefit to the society or your personal benefit?
On the one hand, a university education can produce a highly skilled worker who is able to compete in the global economy. But on the other, statistics tell us that people who have higher education qualifications are most likely to be employed in high-skilled occupations such as education, health and community, government and business services and have a reasonable expectation of earning higher incomes.
How can students be involved in decision-making about education issues such as voluntary student unionism? Is it fair to ask all students to pay a general service fee which is used to provide a variety of subsidised facilities and services on campus? Is it fair to ask someone to pay a fee that goes toward cheaper child-care services when they do not have any children?