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Students Relish Residential Colleges

[The Australian] — Just last week The Australian published a story about residential colleges from an administrative point of view, and today it follows with a report on the value of residential colleges from a student perspective, including some familiar objections from critics. (Many of the Australian university colleges, like the colleges at Oxford and Cambridge and unlike residential colleges in the United States, are independent bodies that were originally established by religious societies, although today they admit students from all backgrounds and traditions.)

Students relish the residential option

STUDENT life just wouldn’t be the same without the residential college, say those who have made the University of Melbourne’s Trinity College their home. “What’s special to me is that sense of community,” said Pip Duffy, 21, a third-year arts-law student.

“Colleges are an essential part of the great universities and if the University of Melbourne or Australian universities want to be recognised as world universities, they need those aspects to them.”

In this she echoed Trinity College warden Donald Markwell’s speech, which last week prompted Education Minister Julie Bishop to call on churches to renew investment in university residential colleges.

For Henry Stewart, a first-year commerce-arts student, what most appeals is the chance to meet people from all backgrounds.

“It’s not necessarily what people think, that only privileged people come here,” he said of the college, which is home to 269 students.

“Many are here with some sort of financial assistance from the college, so you really do get people from a wide range of backgrounds and there are heaps of international students, too.”

These views were aired in the grounds of one of the country’s oldest colleges, which was founded by the Anglican Church.

But Ms Bishop’s call met with some scepticism. “Providing accommodation is not really at the core of what churches are about,” said Robert Miller, assistant minister at the Anglican St Jude’s parish in Melbourne.

Greg Eddy, president of the Association of Heads of Australian University Colleges and Halls, said Ms Bishop’s tribute to colleges was important.

“But it’s been quite a while since any of the churches decided to build a college on campus; I’d like to see the federal Government provide some money,” he said.

The National Tertiary Education Union and postgraduate students’ association said the Government that was urging churches to set up “expensive residential colleges” had overseen cuts to student-income support.

“Through its legislative attack, this Government is ensuring that only those students who can afford high residential college fees will enjoy a full and satisfying university experience,” the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations said.

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