You know that fee you get charged at the beginning of each semester? That’s SSAF – the Student Services and Amenities Fee.
It’s student money, but QUT keeps 75% of it for itself to deliver many services that could be provided by the student union. QUT Guild currently receives 25% of student SSAF fees, which is below the national average, and well below the average SSAF given to student unions at Australia’s top universities.
This makes the QUT Student Guild one of the most under-funded independent student unions in the country.
In a letter to the University last week, the Guild said “The underfunding of the Guild, that maintains the same services for a disproportionally larger membership base compared to our allocated percentage [compared to other unis], will continue to maintain risks attributed to their under-resourcing across all our service provisions. We hope that QUT follows the trends within the sector and increases the funding for the mandatory services that student unions across Australia provide in the best interests of students.”
Up until 2006, student unions received 100% of a similar kind of student fee – which meant that student money was 100% in student hands.
These days, it’s up to each university to decide how much SSAF their respective student unions receive. At QUT this is decided by the SSAF Advisory Group. Only one student, the Guild Treasurer, has a vote in these decisions.
QUT is deciding how to spend your SSAF money right now. This is their plan for the projected $9.3M they expect to receive in SSAF next year:
The current plan essentially keeps things at the status quo, and indicates that QUT seemingly has no intention to hand over a larger percentage of student money back into student hands.
It is common practice for student unions to have long-term funding agreements with universities, and the Guild has requested that QUT work with the union to put an updated funding agreement in place. Glass understands the Guild has not heard back from QUT regarding this.
The Guild currently provides a wide range of services and initiatives to students, such as the Clubs & Societies programme, Foodbank, transport support, Academic Advocacy, events, our student representatives, independent student media, and support for our Collectives.
QUT is required by law to seek student feedback on how their SSAF is spent. Glass understands the Guild believes the university may have neglected this responsibility in recent years.
Yesterday, all QUT students received an email from the University Registrar inviting them to provide feedback on QUT’s proposed SSAF initiatives for 2024. The information linked in email did not include a breakdown for the cost of each initiative, nor the total amount of SSAF allocated to each part of the University or Guild.
QUT students have been given less than two weeks to give their feedback during one of the busiest and most stressful times of semester. In addition to this, each student must address their concerns in an email to the Registrar directly – which seems unnecessarily intimidating and hard to engage with for students. It begs the question – does the University actually want our feedback?
If you want to provide QUT with feedback about how your SSAF should be spent in 2024, we urge you to email the Registrar (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your thoughts by COB Monday 13 November.
A reminder: What is SSAF?
What is SSAF?
The Student Services and Amenities Fee (otherwise known as SSAF) was introduced by the Federal Labor Government in 2011 and is the charge for student services of a non-academic nature. This can include the promotion of health and welfare, help with employment and career advice, development of study skills outside academic courses of study and providing orientation information.
In the past, students at Australian universities paid a fee directly to student unions. This was removed by the Howard Government through a bill changing student unionism from mandatory to voluntary in 2005. After this, student unions suffered for a few years until SSAF was introduced in 2011, although the Queensland legislation still does not set aside a specific amount for student unions.
The SSAF is a legislated fee paid by domestic undergraduate (including honours) and postgraduate students.
All eligible students can defer the payment through a HELP loan scheme called SA-HELP if they elect at the beginning of the semester.
What does my money get spent on?
The QUT Student Guild currently receives 25% of the SSAF paid by QUT students. Prior to 2019, Guild Executives refused the SSAF funding, allowing the unclaimed SSAF funds to be returned to other University projects. Previous Executives refused the funding on the grounds that they didn’t believe in the principle of SSAF and extra costs for students.
In 2019, for the first time since the SSAF was introduced, the QUT Guild received SSAF funds. In addition to a set allocated percentage, the Guild then lobbied for a larger portion of the funds. They were successful and received a total of AU$1 million – approximately 11 per cent. Since then, SSAF funding received by the Guild has increased to 25% in 2022 through negotiations between the Guild and QUT.
SSAF funds can only be used for 19 specific purposes.
At the moment, SSAF funds a range of services and initiatives provided by the Guild, such as Academic Advocacy, the clubs & societies programme, the Foodbank, student media (Glass!), and much more.
What is SSAF? was originally written for Glass in 2019 by Em Readman, and has been updated for republication.