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News News Students lose out as union laws bite
THE Federal Government's ban on compulsory student union membership has crippled political representation and independent advocacy at universities, a report has found.

Only two student representative bodies are self-sufficient. Those that have not collapsed are funded through their university administrations or are running on their final reserves, says a report detailing the impact of voluntary student unionism released by the National Union of Students today.

Federal Government laws prohibiting universities from collecting compulsory union fees took effect in most universities this year.

The union's national president, Michael Nguyen, said the legislation had starved student organisations and extra-curricular activities of resources, particularly at less well-funded universities.

The better-resourced "sandstone" universities had generally propped up those services but at the expense of funds that could have been spent on teaching and learning.

"Students starting university now are going to see less opportunity to be involved in extra-curricular activities, there will be fewer events for them to network and this is going to affect them in the long term, because when they go for a job, employers ask what extra activities they have done on campus," Mr Nguyen said.

"Students who come from well-funded campuses are going to have an advantage."

At least 730 staff working in advocacy, catering, sporting organisations and administration have been made redundant, and many others reduced from full-time to part-time.

Student organisations had also been forced to forfeit the independence of their advocacy services, which represent students in matters such as re-marking requests, plagiarism allegations and complaints about supervisors.

In many cases those services were being provided by the universities, creating a conflict of interest, either real or perceived, the report says.

However, the president of the Australian Liberal Students' Federation, Tim Andrews, said: "The general student body doesn't have to subsidise ridiculous left-wing protest movements any more. We will still see activism, but it will be to promote the welfare of all students."

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