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What is the SSAF?

Michael Wright looks at what the Student Services and Amenities Fee is and who spends it.

Each semester the university asks you to pay SSAF a $147.00 fee ($294.00 annually) that pays for ‘student services and amenities’. Due in part to the fact that it can be easily deferred through the ATO, many students pay the fee little attention.

Based on an estimated student load equivalent to 34,000 full-time students, the university will collect approximately $10 MILLION of student funds in 2017. Where does this money go? Who spends it? On what?

Government legislation that mandates the collection of the fee also restricts how it is spent. The key legal requirement is that it cannot be spent on ‘core university business’ (teaching), however each of the bodies mentioned below also have internally imposed restrictions on what they can and cannot use the funds for.

SRC and SCCs

One of the primary recipients of SSAF funds are the Student Representative Council (SRC) and its campus associates. In 2016, the SRC and SCCs received $100,000 of SSAF.

The SRC is made up of 3 members of each of the 5 Student Campus Councils (SCC) which in turn is formed by 11 elected students from each campus. An identified position for International Students, Postgraduate Students and Residential Students are included on each campus.

The SRC and SCCs provide collective advocacy on behalf of students, with a focus on academic, social and welfare issues that impact large groups of students. They are consulted by the university on behalf of students, and can often be found on campus running campaigns and providing free food and merchandise (supported by SSAF).

To find out more about the SRC and SCCs, check out westernsrc.org

UWS Connect

As a solely owned subsidiary of the university, UWSConnect.ltd is the organisation that provides ‘Campus Life’. While the organisation formerly oversaw the University Store and many of the food and beverage providers on campus, these have been contracted to external providers.

Connect’s ‘Campus Life’ services include the provision of the Free Breakfast program on all campuses, the running of heavily subsidised (often half price) day trips, tours under the banner of “Out and About”, and supporting Clubs and Societies.

In 2016, these three programs received approximately $580,000 of the total SSAF pool from the SSAF Working Party. Connect may also receive large chunks of SSAF at the discretion of senior University staff.

Connect has 3 students on it’s Board of Directors; one appointed by the SRC and the other two appointed by the Board.

SAG Forum

The Student Advisory Group Forum is a committee of students who approve grants of additional SSAF funds to Clubs and Societies. While the membership of this group is three students elected by each campus’ Clubs Forum, the group receives logistical support and advice from UWSConnect staff.

A full breakdown of requested and approved funding bids from the SAG Forum was not available on the University’s website at the time of publication.

SSAF Working Party

A committee that consists of representation from the SRC, each SCC, and 4 university staff, the SSAF Working Party has a budget of $650,000.

Students and staff are invited to submit bids late in Semester 2 for implementation in the following year. Staff bids require the approval of senior staff (Deans or above) while student bids are reviewed by representatives of the SCCs.

Approved bids are then reviewed by the full committee. This committee has historically approved funding for projects including the Respect. Now. Always. Campaign, the provision of student notice-board pillars, e-Careers programs, many of the above listed Connect-run initiatives, the LEAD Program, and the development of social spaces on campus ie. Parramatta’s Janice Reid Pavilion.

Discretion of University Staff

A proportion of funds are allocated by university staff to projects without direct student involvement in the decision making process. Whilst a large number of these decisions include renewing funding for ongoing projects, there is not currently documentation on the University’s website that indicates the process which granted funding to a project.

The allocation of funding to the above mentioned bodies also operates at the discretion of senior staff. While many of these amounts (such as the SRC/SCC operating budgets) have previously been negotiated by students, there is little or no student involvement in top-level decision making.

DISCLAIMER:
W’SUP is 100% SSAF funded. Michael Wright was a member of the 2016 SSAF Working Party and the SRC.

All numbers are based on data published at westernsydney.edu.au/ssafpriorities