For all the fuss in the voluntary student unionism debate during 2005, there has been very little follow-up on its consequences. The first sector-wide study of VSU’s impact (which will be available from the Australian University Sport website on 7 November) is reported this morning.
It finds the amenities and service fee/membership fee income for sporting, recreational, social and culture activities dropped from $179 million before VSU to $12 million after VSU. From the perspective of the report’s funders that is clearly bad news, but from the government’s perspective it confirms that few students wanted these services badly enough to pay for them via membership fees. The summary findings do not say how much of that funding loss was made up for from increased direct charges.
My position (pdf) on this issue is unchanged. The separate and compulsory amenities fee is an anachronism; there is no point in itemising the cost of attending university if the student cannot opt-out of purchasing services he or she does not want. Universities ought to be free to sell whatever bundle of services they choose at whatever price they determine; if it is the wrong bundle or the wrong price they will pay a market penalty.
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