The National Association of Australian University Colleges would like to lend its support to the petition aimed at changing the University of Tasmania’s recent decision to preference incoming first-year students, over existing students, for on-campus accommodation places in 2019.
The University of Tasmania’s advertising makes it clear that they are committed to the health, wellbeing, and strong academic outcomes of their students. These are excellent commitments to make. However, the recent decision to deny many returning students accommodation, undermines this commitment.
As students are well aware, the Hobart rental market is the worst in the country. For students it is even more difficult, owing to the lack of short term leases, best suited for students studying for 1-2 more years. These challenging circumstances are further aggravated by the inadequate notice provided to the students. The combination of these things give students legitimate cause for anxiety. The provision of URL links to Domain.com, Gumtree and Facebook does little to alleviate this. In order to have due regard for student welfare this needs to be addressed.
The University should also be mindful that this issue will not be resolved by the start of the 2019 academic year. Students may still be without accommodation, or if they are fortunate enough to find somewhere, they may be paying above their means. This self-evidently will be deleterious to student’s academic outcomes. No student can reach a high level of intellectual attainment if they are working additional hours to pay rent, or are ‘couch surfing’ for extended periods of time. In order to have due regard for academic outcomes, this too will need to be addressed.
If the wellbeing, and academic prosperity of the students of the University of Tasmania is to be a priority, the Universities most correct cause of action is clear. The available on campus spaces need to be prioritised in favour of returning students.
We recognise this would be a difficult decision to make. Realistically it may mean reduced enrolments for the incoming cohort of 2019. This would potentially result in some financial difficulty. We would argue, however, that the poor treatment of students would have equal repercussions in the long term. But consider this, it would be a powerful message for the State, indeed nationwide, if the University of Tasmania was bold enough to say, in the reversing of their decision, “we will forsake financial gain for the sake of our students”.
It is for the above reasons; the National Association of Australian University Colleges implores the University of Tasmania to reverse their decision.