Students March on Government Cuts
Students from all over Victoria gathered today at the Melbourne State Library in protest of the proposed government cuts to University funding. The protest stems from fear that the government is pursuing deregulation towards tertiary institutes, including Universities and TAFE which could see individual course prices climb to a staggering 100 thousand dollars.
They were joined by safe schools advocate Roz Ward and Guardian columnist Van Badham who both spoke on the importance of university in our society.
“Higher education is transformative, higher education is a social equaliser, higher education teaches values of solidarity and it enfranchises people with critical thinking.” Said Badham, “It is absolutely crucial to the Liberal party’s project that you do not develop these values.”
At 2pm in the heart of Melbourne the National Union of Students (NUS) lead a march through the street that forced traffic to a halt. Amongst the sea of banners and raised fists came a cry for solidarity and a plea for the prioritisation of giving Victorians the access to education that, NUS believes, everyone deserves.
Australia has been a hub of student activist activity in the last few months following the election; with rolling protests railing against detention centers, the treatment of Indigenous Australians, and the current occupation of the University of Sydney’s arts building.
“We saw cuts to every faculty, we saw cuts to staff we saw the same old increase in the number of students and the reducing of lecturers and tutors, and we saw the repeated calls for university to become more expensive.” Said Guardian columnist Van Badham, “Has anybody heard this story before?”
The question on everyone’s mind was how the higher education institutions of Victoria became the first port of call for cuts. In early 2015 universities across Australia were forced to cute a number of teaching positions which in turn raises class sizes.
NUS believes that this trend to sack more teaching staff is reducing the amount of attention each student receives and therefore reduces the students learning experience.
“Every attack on university public funding, leading to an increase in the commercialisation and the commodification of education, means a reduction in academic freedom.” Said Roz Ward, “The biggest threat to academic freedom internationally is the corporatisation of universities and the privatisation of universities which we are all here today to stand up against.”
The NUS has pledged that it will return if the calls for deregulation continue, stating that students in Australia shouldn’t be idle when it comes to their further education.
Samuel Trask-Marino is currently completing his post-graduate degree at La Trobe University. You can follow him on Twitter: @SamTraskMarino