But both the Greens and Labor have vowed to oppose the cuts.
Australian Greens spokesperson for higher education Senator Lee Rhiannon and Greens candidate for Lismore Adam Guise said the Greens would attempt to block the Coalition’s $5 billion cuts to higher education in the upper house.
‘The Coalition’s budget cuts will rip $60 million in funding out of Southern Cross University, leading to staff cuts, course cuts and severe impacts on education quality,’ Mr Guise said.
‘There are nearly 15,000 students studying at Southern Cross and almost 1,000 staff who are incredibly anxious about the possibility of these cuts becoming law.
The Greens’ announcement follows a rally at the university on Friday which ended with a petition being presented to SCU Chancellor John Dowd from the National Tertiary Education Union.
The petition called for transparency and an investigation into the university’s finances.
Labor’s Justine Elliot has also condemned the government’s cuts.
‘This bill is another broken promise. It is an unfair plan which will result in an increase in the cost of degrees – up to $100,000. It will also result in crippling debt and vicious cuts to university course funding,’ she said.
‘The bill is a fundamental attack on one of the most basic rights, and that is the right to access a decent education. It is particularly hard for those people who live in regional and rural areas.
‘This bill is bad policy from a bad government. We will be opposing this legislation in the strongest possible terms. I am very proud to be opposing this legislation.
Meanwhile, Senator Rhiannon said the Abbott government’s proposals to massively increase student fees would hit students from low-socio economic backgrounds the hardest.
She said 25 per cent of the students at SCU were from low incomes and with student fees expected to double it was highly likely many future students would reconsider going to university.
‘Allowing universities to set their own fees will benefit big, wealthy metropolitan universities who face high demand but it will lead to a two-tier system where regional campuses are underfunded and opportunities for regional students are limited,’ she said.
‘The Greens will fight tooth and nail against these cuts and we hope that the Labor Party, the Palmer United Party and the Senate crossbenchers vote with us to defeat them.
SCU vice chancellor Peter Lee said in response that financial problems were widespread throughout the tertiary sector.
Professor Lee said falling international student numbers were affecting revenue along with budget measures announced by the previous federal government.
Professor Lee said it was not just regional universities that were reigning in spending.
‘There are a number of other universities that have also found themselves in the same situation,’ he said.
‘La Trobe University has announced 300 job cuts, Melbourne University, Sydney University, across the sector there have been a number of cuts.
‘It’s really unfortunate, I do not like doing this but I can’t spend money I don’t have.’