UWA chief   blastsi fee protests
Blinkered: Students protesting in Perth. Picture: Sharon Smith/The West Australian

University of WA chancellor Michael Chaney has blasted "blinkered" left-wing student protesters, saying he is bewildered they are fighting against the Abbott Government's push to raise the cost of degrees.

The business leader said it was unfair to expect taxpayers who did not go to university to fund the education of students who would earn bigger salaries in their career.

Dr Chaney's comments came as the National Tertiary Education Union released an analysis warning the cost of some degrees could treble under the Government's plans to allow universities to set their own fees from 2016.

It claimed an engineering degree could soar from $34,452 to as much as $100,000, while medicine or dentistry could jump from $60,510 to between $83,000 and $180,000. Nursing would rise from $18,132 to between $22,000 and $40,000 and teaching would go from $24,176 to between $29,000 and $40,000.

The union believes universities will have no option but to raise fees because the Government is also cutting its funding contribution by 20 per cent.

Graduates will also face bigger student loan repayments because the Government will apply a real interest rate to HECS debts instead of inflation.

The changes have sparked an angry backlash from students, with police and protesters clashing in Melbourne and Sydney last week as rallies were held across Australia.

Dr Chaney, who got his science degree at UWA before the Whitlam government abolished fees, labelled protesting students as "blinkered" given the poor state of the Federal Budget.

"I'm a bit bewildered to see left-wing students campaigning for lower fees on the basis that people who don't go to university should be funding their education," he said. "What they're saying is people who don't go to universities should through their taxation be funding university students who, in due course, earn higher incomes."

Dr Chaney would not be drawn on whether UWA would raise its fees, saying the matter was yet to be discussed.

He also stressed the importance of retaining the system of not making graduates repay their student loans until their income reached about $50,000, instead of hitting them with upfront fees.

UWA Student Guild president Tom Henderson said the protests in WA had been non-violent, well organised and constructive, with the main goal of enhancing the public's understanding of the impact of the changes.

The West Australian

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