The best things in life aren’t free, but they are priceless
The best things in life aren’t free, but they are priceless


The best things in life aren’t free, but they are priceless

Australian universities today face many challenges, not least changes embedded in the recent Federal budget. As we contemplate those changes, with no certainty which of them will survive the Senate, we must assure ourselves that no matter what political wind or ideology prevails, change is here to stay.

As universities, change is our business. Gone are the dreaming spires of old: modern universities must be multi-purposed, business-minded corporate citizens as well as places of knowledge creation and dissemination.

Many of our alumni were educated at Macquarie University during the Whitlam era of ‘free’ education, without personal or familial financial contribution. Others financed their studies through the HECS-HELP system, which has been a fair way to finance higher education and maintain a system that is affordable and attractive to students and their families. However, both these systems have helped to conceal the true cost of a university degree and, for many, its true value.

As a Macquarie graduate, although you may not have considered the actual dollar value of your qualification, I am certain that you understand the true benefits of your degree. The changes in the Federal Budget threaten to change the way future students assess that value, with financial concerns outweighing the very real advantages a university degree can offer.

Until we can effectively make the case for the value of higher education, we are at risk of creating a generation of young Australians who view the extraordinary long-term opportunities of a university education as unaffordable and undesirable in the short term.

It is true that we cannot rely upon Government funding to provide long-term stability for our operation, and that we must find more secure and less variable income sources if we are to flourish and grow. A blend of funding – from appropriate levels of student contribution, from philanthropic activity, from independent commercial activities, and from Federal and State Governments – is the only way to steward universities sustainably as institutions of social and economic good.

As graduates, whatever your circumstances, I ask you to consider the changes proposed by the government and how they may have affected the opportunities and life experiences your degree study provided. Speak to your family and friends; it is in telling your story that the importance of education will be realised.

Universities are not free, but they are priceless. If we are to make the case for value, you can be our strongest advocates, for you are already our greatest success.

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