Graham and Louise Tuckwell's $50 million donation to the ANU for student scholarships highlights the difficulties many students face living on Youth Allowance while attending university and also highlights complex issues about the role of philanthropists in the operation of a university, says Australian Greens higher education spokesperson Lee Rhiannon.
"The Tuckwell's generosity is laudable, but throws the spotlight on the failure of the federal government to properly address the barriers many students face to receiving decent student income support and affordable housing," Senator Rhiannon said.
"The risk is that the major parties will see philanthropy as an alternative for the government underfunding of support for university students.
"Across Australia students are accumulating higher debts to pay for their courses, paying higher rents and needing more cash to live near or travel to their campus.
"Current student Youth Allowance payments, which sit lower than the poverty line, and the personal income test means that students cannot afford to live on Youth Allowance alone and concentrate on their studies.
"Many students are living in poverty, with rental assistance not coming close to meeting accommodation costs.
"Increased funding is needed to support university students if, as a nation, we are to truly prioritise excellence in higher education and be a competitive player in the global economy.
"The donation by Graham Tuckwell will see $100,000 per student scholarships for students and Mr Tuckwell will fly in from Jersey in the Channel Islands where he lives to sit on the selection committee.
"The Greens would welcome a public debate about the role played by philanthropists in the life of a university and the importance of maintaining universities' independence and autonomy," Senator Rhiannon said.
Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert has announced she will introduce a bill to increase the single living away from home Youth Allowance by $50 a week and index its growth the same way as the Aged Pension.