Up-front fees at VCA

March 11, 1998

Up-front fees at VCA

By Marcel Cameron

MELBOURNE — The Victorian College of the Arts administration has attempted to introduce up-front fees for local undergraduate students, following months of speculation and no attempt to involve students and staff in the decision.

However, at its meeting last week, the governing body of VCA was evenly divided over whether to charge fees for students enrolled in the Sixth School (which teaches "liberal arts"). A decision will be made at a future council meeting.

VCA student union education officer Kylie Wilkinson told Green Left Weekly that students enrolled in the Sixth School were an easy target for the fees because the school, located on the Melbourne University campus, is isolated from the rest of the VCA campus.

If fees are introduced, this would set a precedent for the other schools.

Like other tertiary institutions, VCA has been hit hard by federal government cuts to operating grants. A 25% cut to VCA's 1997 budget resulted in fewer staff and an increase in class sizes.

The VCA Board of Studies first considered the introduction of up-front fees last July amid strong opposition from the majority of deans, staff representatives and the student union.

Following the close of campus for the summer, the college released a discussion paper on restructuring. The report recommended further cuts to sessional staff and the replacement of deans with administrators, a move which would facilitate restructuring by removing academics from the decision-making process.

Students were excluded from the "consultative process", and the student union was denied access to the report for more than a week. The central administration had been isolated from the cuts.

Wilkinson said the student union and staff are determined to fight the up-front fees and funding cuts, and to ensure that restructuring is not at the expense of VCA students and staff. She also encouraged students to get involved in the education action group.

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