Legally, Oxford’s contract doesn’t do anything Australian
universities couldn’t do already by university statute. Students have always
been bound by university rules, though compliance may improve if they expressly
agree to them.
The attractiveness of
contracts is that they are potentially less one-sided than university rules. They
can legally oblige universities to provide minimum service levels (though Oxford’s does not), as well as reinforcing students’
study commitment. Until relatively recently, universities had no reason to sign
such contracts. They answered to the Canberra bureaucracy, not students. But now fee-paying
students have bargaining power with our cash-strapped universities, contracts
could be on their way.