Labor’s outrageous new plan to rob universities of $2.8 billion dollars to fund the Gonski school reforms has hit a nerve.
Our education is already characterised by over-sized classes, over-worked academics and high numbers of casual staff with limited time for students.
The 2 per cent “efficiency dividend”—corporate speak for indiscriminate cuts of $900 million—will mean even more job losses, course cuts and other cost-cutting measures at every university around the country.
The decision to turn the Student Start-Up Scholarship, a $1025 twice yearly payment to students on Youth Allowance, into a loan to be repaid via HECS, is an attack on the most disadvantaged students. New students who receive that scholarship are going to be saddled with thousands of dollars more HECS debt.
We are still dealing with the after effects of John Howard’s $1.7 billion cut to universities in 1996. Labor did not restore these cuts, instead deregulating course places. This meant boosting enrolment numbers without any substantial increase to the amount of money per student.
Universities have become increasingly reliant on corporate funding, creating skewed research priorities and managements obsessed with pouring money into marketing their image.
International students have become cash cows, charged exorbitant fees while robbed of rights to work and stay in Australia.
Now Labor’s cuts will go even deeper. And they are laying the basis for an Abbott government, who want to deregulate fees, meaning big hikes in HECS debts. Around the country, we need a fight against the cuts. The National Union of Students (NUS) and Education Action Groups around the country have kicked it off with snap rallies. Discussions are underway about calling a national demonstration of students and staff on May 14, the day of Labor’s budget.