catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Student unions as local governments

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For years supporters of compulsory student amenities fees have drawn an analogy with local government rates to justify their imposition. I’ve never found this or the analogy with taxation convincing, since unlike taxes and rates student amenities fees are not levied according to income or wealth, and unlike taxes or rates payment entitles students to an exclusive bundle of services. Student amenities fees are just what their name suggests – a fee for a bundled set of services.

However in a recent issue of Australian Quarterly, Southern Cross University academic Jim Page suggests that taking this local government idea quite literally could be the solution to VSU, if it is implemented. He suggests that state governments turn student unions into local governments, with their own powers to charge students.

The universities would hate this. The services they need to operate in a competitive market would be put in the hands of people ranging from the incompetent to the insane. They’d probably rather have VSU.

With ALP governments throughout Australia, would they do this favour for their student union mates? Most of them are probably too cautious to do so, even retaining voluntary membership when abolishing VSU in Western Australia and Victoria; though in Western Australia student unions have been given direct power via statute before. It could also cause a constitutional battle between the Commonwealth and the states. To be able to levy charges, the ‘local government’ student uinons would need to get access to student names and addresses, which could conflict with Commonwealth-imposed privacy rules. Perhaps the state government could try to establish a separate electoral-tax roll, but it would not be that hard for students to avoid it.

This ‘solution’ would also face the same problem that VSU has faced. As it would have no general legitimacy, it would be repealed if the government changed. The only viable strategy remains incorporating amenities fee into tuition fees, protecting the capacity of universities to provide services, while imposing university budget competition on non-academic services.


Written by Admin

November 17, 2005 at 9:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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