No: 1

Autumn 2001

Student National Day of Action

by Kate Davison
National Education Officer,
National Union of Students
Students around the country have called a national day of action to protest against the direction of education in Australia. Join the fight for free, public education on April 5th 2001!

Since 1996 the Howard government has slashed $1 billion from higher education funding, despite the numbers of university students increasing.

Education and the education system is seen as an item on sale to the highest bidder. While the government continues to take less responsibility for education, universities have to look elsewhere for funding: from students or multinational corporations.

We have heard initial election policies from both major parties, neither of which even remotely begin to address the problems we are facing at the moment.

Students currently pay a whopping third of the cost of education themselves a massive increase since education was free between 1974 and 1986.

Both the ALP and the Liberals preen themselves on their grand rhetoric about making Australia the world leader in education by adding a few places, or by putting education online, but what is really needed in education is a total overhaul of priorities no corporate control, full public funding, complete regulation, and a change in philosophy.

We want education for the social good, not for profit!

End corporate control of universities!

At the moment, corporations are represented on numerous university councils across the country. While students will have one, perhaps two student representatives on the main decision- making body of their university (if they are lucky) there are often a number of corporate representatives.

Companies such as Shell, BHP, North Ltd, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Qantas, Coles Myer and others currently intervene into several university decision-making structures. What are they doing there except looking after their profit interests? What interest do they have in making decisions about university funding and priorities?

It's a bit obvious isn't it? Corporations such as these and other multinational companies have a vested interest in government funding cuts to education.

Government cuts mean that they are able to move in and make deals over course content, direction of courses and learning, so you end up with nothing more than a degree factory.

Corporations have a vested interest in stamping out any opposition or critical social thinking, because it is critical thinking that holds them accountable when they exploit workers, harm the environment, or kill the poor. Accountability gets in the way of productivity, and productivity means money.

Stop attacks on staff!

Part of the squeeze on university funding involves staff cuts. The number of students studying is increasing in Australia, while the number of staff employed is shrinking.

This leads to terrible working and pay conditions for staff, intimidation, job losses, not to mention larger classes, less consultation time, course closures, and deterioration of quality.

The attacks on staff and students are coming from the same place we must fight together to overcome them!

Indigenous students

Indigenous students still only make up a very small part of the student body. While a small amount of money is set aside to increase the access of Indigenous students, the fact is that money is being stripped back from support services.

This includes the abolition of Abstudy, continual closures of Indigenous Studies departments at universities, and the ongoing racism faced by indigenous students on campus.

International students are welcome!

Recently, we have seen a spate of racism in the media, with articles implying that International Students are "cheating" the education system by being marked easily.

What hasn't been mentioned is how much access these students have to language assistance programs and other vital support mechanisms. The target of anger on fees and marking should not be international students, but the university administrations, and the government for introducing a user-pays system in the first place.

Education is something that should function for the social good, not for individual gain or corporate greed.

The current user-pays system is only one way in which education is increasingly becoming the realm of the elite "if you can't afford it you can forget about it", rather than making society more equitable.

Reverse the funding cuts!!!!

All of these things point to one primary goal we need a publicly funded education system which operates for the good of the community, not to create competition and division.

Fight for free, publicly controlled education on April 5th.

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