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Howard government happy to dance on the grave of university sport

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  • Howard government happy to dance on the grave of university sport

    Brendan Nelson has been promoted to look after the war on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but the VSU legislation, his legacy in university education, stays.

    University sports clubs will now see an 80% drop in income this semester. Cricket clubs can either charge each player a grand per year to pay for the ground staff, beg their parent university to take away money from research and teaching, or close their fields because cricket cannot survive in a user-pays environment. Probably ditto for swimming pools, as the bloody things are too expensive to run and don't bring the same income that, say, a car park would.

    As this article below reveals, the frisbee clubs expect to do a whopping business:

    Cheap and flexible - a taste of things to come on campus
    Harriet Alexander Higher Education Reporter, SMH
    July 20, 2006

    THIS could be the future of university sporting clubs - cheap to run, self-sufficient and desperately inclusive.

    The impact of voluntary student unionism will be felt for the first time when the second semester begins next week, and it is up to university organisations to devise their means of survival.

    Compulsory student fees, eliminated under Federal Government legislation, made up $40 million of the $58 million received by university sporting organisations annually, according to a 2004 survey; now sporting organisations expect to recover only a fifth through user-pays charges and voluntary payments.

    The chief executive of Macquarie University Sport and Recreation, Deidre Anderson, said clubs would need to be self-sufficient."The next six months are a complete reshift and some clubs won't survive and some will," she said.

    The frisbee club at Macquarie University is among those that organisers hope will withstand the change. Such clubs do not require a Saturday commitment and are more flexible than traditional clubs - with meetings often organised via text message.

    "There will always be traditional sports but we've got to get smarter in how we manage them. So, for example, if you service a cricket pitch, it requires intensive staff and maintenance and you're really only going to be servicing 12 students," Ms Anderson said.

    Most university administrations are yet to explain how they will deal with the funding shortfall.

    The University of NSW has spent $500,000 on external consultants' fees to develop a model it plans to announce soon.

    The University of New England last week announced it would contribute $700,000 a year to mitigate the expected annual loss of $2.3 million.

    But university unions, sporting and student organisations say the full impact of the legislation will not be felt for years.

    Some universities may initially divert funds from research and teaching to prop up clubs, the chief executive of Sydney University Sport, Greg Harris, said. "It will be a slow degradation of the sector over a period of time," he said.

    The vice-chancellor of Newcastle University, Nick Saunders, said the changes had created "considerable uncertainty" among student bodies.

    "It's certainly put stresses on already extended university budgets," he said.

    "The universities like ours, which are going to have to fund some of the services that were previously supported by the charges on students, we're having to put money into student services rather than into other activities like teaching and research."

    Student associations are also at risk because most do not get commercial revenue and universities are unwilling to pay for their advocacy services and political campaigns because there is a conflict of interest.

    The University of NSW Student Guild plans to overcome this by joining with the service provider previously known as the union, which runs food, drink and shopping arms.

    The federal Minister for Education, Julie Bishop, said voluntary student unionism would force unions and universities to determine which services students wanted.

    "If the students value the services and activities which the student organisations provide them ? they will voluntarily pay to participate," she said.