Posts for education dept

Education Officer’s Report – Week 3, Sem 2, 2016

Liam Carrigan and Dylan Griffiths

The success of the ‘Let SCA Stay’ campaign in beating back management and their attempts to merge the school with UNSW is the first major victory of collective action we have seen this year. As we approach the final months of our term as Education Officers it seems appropriate to reflect on why this particular campaign was so successful.

Previously, our efforts in the first half of the year were focused on building rallies to varying degrees of success, holding snap protests against the Liberals and attempting to maintain momentum in the lull after the shelving of fee deregulation. Whilst it was hoped the restructure would inspire a mass staff and student campaign, following a successful staff and student rally early in Semester One, resistance stalled as the University pushed ahead with their agenda. The changes to the senate, wherein elected alumni and staff positions were removed in pursuit of a corporate governance structure are now irreversible. Despite staff and student opposition, the Education faculty was moved into Arts and Social Sciences. The 2016-2020 Strategic Plan was replete with worrying suggestions, funneling students into expensive postgraduate degrees through limited undergraduate options, building links with the corporate sector and destroying honours. The University solidified its move away from a community of staff and scholars, pursuing a neoliberal model of tertiary education that is fast becoming the norm in Australia.
Against this backdrop, students at Sydney University should be aware that the myth of millennial entitlement our elders feed us is a fucking lie. Thanks to the Baird government our city has become a soulless ghost town. The changes hit us hardest: lockout laws, opal fare hikes and anti protest legislation are direct attacks on us. But under our neoliberal backdrop it is hard to notice the collective war being raged upon us. The capacity to organize against and recognize these attacks has been severely weakened by voluntary student unionism, the destruction of free education, inadequate government support and a precarious job market upon graduation.

However, at Callan Park, the attack was so obvious and vicious that the students of SCA refused to take it lying down. Upon being informed that they were to be shipped off to UNSW like unwanted furniture they channeled that anger into a strategic, organized and vibrant student campaign. They refused the logic of Steven Garton, chasing him and his cronies off campus. A visit to the senate snowballed into the biggest on campus rally since 2012. The vigil at the Archibald Prize was emblematic of the strong community support from across NSW they were able to rally to their cause. Although the Universities decision to abandon the ‘Heads of Agreement’ with NSW was a success, the campaign is not one. Let SCA Stay will not stop fighting until the BVA is reinstated and the future of SCA as a world class visual arts school is ensured.

Study. Be Silent. Die. I remember seeing this graffiti on campus in my first year, and believe its message is one that has been proven time and time again to students on this campus. We should all take inspiration from the students of SCA and continue to demand a better future, because we aren’t going to get one without a fight. Start by joining us on August 17th at the Rally to demand SCA Stays at 1pm at the Quad and on August 24th at the National Day of Action at 1pm outside Fisher Library demanding more money for Education, Not Corporate Tax Evasion.

Education Officer’s Report – Week 1, Sem 2, 2016

Dylan Griffiths & Liam Carrigan

Over the break USYD management sent an email to Sydney College of the Arts students announcing the signing of a Heads of Agreement with UNSW that proposed a ‘merger’ of SCA with UNSW Art and Design. With no guarantees for staff, studio space, curriculum and facilities this is no merger; it’s a closure!

The closure will see up to 3/4 academic staff, all of the technical and many admin staff sacked. It will sacrifice pedagogy for a surplus. Management attempt to calm students by promising that they will still be able to graduate with a Sydney University degree. But students know that it important thing isn’t the piece of paper you get ant the end of your degree but the education in the middle. All three-art schools are under threat by the merger, and so is the wider visual art community. As artist Ben Quilty put it ‘the cultural face of Australia has been punched’.
SCA students are angry and have started the LET SCA STAY campaign. Management has removed the Bachelor of Visual Arts from the 2017 UAC guide and the campaign demands that it is reinstated and the closure halted.

The campaign’s first open meeting attracted 200 people and continues to pull large numbers in the weekly campaign meetings. LET SCA STAY’s first action was to mobilize around managements student briefing, this was successful in sending a message that art students will not stand idly by while university management destroys their education. SCA students didn’t let the Provost, Stephen Garton get a word in before and proceeded to escort him and the dean of SCA off the campus in Rozelle.

This was followed by a rally to disrupt the University Senate. Hundreds of SCA students and activists marched from the quad to the business school where the meeting was taking place only to be met with the riot squad and denied entry.
The Archibald prize was usurped by a peaceful protest of SCA students outside the Gallery of NSW, who were extremely supportive of the protest.

Show Solidarity with SCA students and staff in the main quad on the 17th of August rallying against the proposed closure of SCA.

We also saw the return of the Liberal government, who want to deregulate fees, lower the HECS repayment threshold, and decrease government funding by more than $2 billion. The National Union of Students has called a National Day of Action against these cuts on the 24th of August, be there to defend your education!

Education Officer’s Report – Week 12, Sem 1, 2016

Dylan Griffiths and Liam Carrigan

On May 11th, students from across NSW gathered as part of the National Day of Action in protest against 2 billon in funding cuts to higher education announced by the liberals in the federal budget. The march included shocking displays of police violence and brutality that has become the norm in NSW and on our campus, with the police forcibly ejecting activists protesting Simon Birmingham from Fisher Library and heavy police presence at the recent protests against Wesley University.

Again we see an austerity budget that if enacted will destroy any semblance of equality and fairness in Australia. Again Higher Education is under attack. Again we must take to the streets to defeat it.

As students we hold incredible power. As an activist I have been inspired by our wins fighting cuts, standing in solidarity with staff on picket lines and amassing in our thousands to beat back deregulation again and again. We will never stop fighting and will be back time and time again.

This budget screams evasion, delays and shelving the most horrific of attacks until the election is passed. However, the two billion in proposed cuts will destroy a sector starved of funding so badly that a suite of corporate restructures across the country is now the norm. Here in NSW we have the Usyd restructure, which will see faculties slashed, jobs cut and degrees destroyed in the pursuit of a neoliberal university. At UTS we have seen the implementation of balanced semesters, which has slashed course content and eroded staff conditions in order to maximize efficiency. UNSW has proposed a strategic plan that includes trimesters and a shift to online learning. Management wants to partner with corporations, industries and multinational donors, which will leave us with a hollow, corporate education system. The realities call for more funding, not less.

Students reject this budget. We reject the deregulation of flagship courses, which like the implementation of HECS will see a slow march towards the dreaded 100k degrees over the coming years.  We reject our financial contribution to our degrees being raised from 40 percent to 50 percent, because fuck shackling us with more debt for the rest of our living lives. Scrap that – they’ll probably decide to collect that sweet HECS dollar from our cold dead hands. Education is a social good – why the fuck does the ruling class think we should pay? The money is there. This budget has included a 25% tax break to big business, 32 billion in defense spending and 1.2 billion to maintain the offshore processing centers that murder refugees.

If you’re interested in getting involved in the fight against the budget and the liberals join the EAG at 2pm Tuesdays or contact the Education officers to be added to our organizing group on Facebook.

Education Officer’s Report – Week 10, Sem 1, 2016

Liam Carrigan and Dylan Griffiths

Treasurer Scott Morrison did not mention higher education in his 2016 budget speech – but make no mistake the Liberals remain determined to squeeze students. They have had to walk away from their preferred policy of full fee deregulation, citing “community concern”. We can chalk this up as a victory for large student demonstrations in 2014.

We won the battle, but not the war. Major reforms have simply been delayed by one more year. They are hoping to keep these plans quiet until after the election in July. Our demonstration on May 11 will be crucial to putting a spotlight on the Liberals’ plans and making sure they aren’t re-elected.

The 2016 budget contains $2 billion worth of cuts over the next four years. To achieve these cuts, they have left open the option of a 20 per cent funding cut to undergraduate degrees.
At the same time a “discussion paper” has been released which outlines other “optional” proposals to be implemented from January 2018, including:

  • Deregulation for “flagship” courses, which could enroll 20 per cent of students
  • Increased student fees to raise students’ contribution from 40 per cent to 50 per cent of cost of degrees
  • Lower the income threshold for HECS repayments (eg. from $54,000 to $42,000)
  • Collect unpaid HECS from the dead, or tie HECS repayments to household income

The Liberals are determined to claw more money off ordinary students and those who can least afford it. Yet they have handed down a budget with a massive tax cut for big business, down to just 25 per cent.

Funding cuts will encourage further corporatization of the sector as universities slash jobs and courses to make up for lost funding. At the same time, universities will rely more on corporate “donors” and industry partnerships, which distort our education.
Whilst they have dumped full deregulation, they are trying to get a watered-down version through the back door. The discussion paper suggests that perhaps 20 per cent of students could be enrolled in deregulated “flagship” programs – if this goes through, it could mean 1 in 5 students paying skyrocketing fees! The Sydney University Vice Chancellor has already named veterinary studies, medicine, agriculture and music as courses he wants deregulated at USyd. This could still mean that $100,000 degrees become a reality.
As it stands, there is no crisis. $32 billion has been budgeted for defence spending this year. It costs about $1.2 billion annually to maintain offshore processing centers that detain refugees. Now Turnbull is cutting the corporate tax rate further. Yet the government has ruled out changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax that could save upward of $11 billion.

Spending priorities, as always, are political priorities.

As a social good, university should be free – just as primary and secondary education are. It can be publically funded through higher corporate tax and closing tax loopholes for the rich. When university fees were first introduced, it was just a tiny “administration fee”. Now we can see clearly this was the thin edge of the wedge. We have to stop this trend in its tracks.

The fight we need:

The fight against Abbott’s 2014 budget showed that protesting works. Student rallies, along with “Bust the Budget” demonstrations, and a vigorous campaign to Save Medicare, helped keep public opinion against Tony Abbott – and even got him kicked out of office!
The May 11 rally is our first chance to send a warning signal to the Turnbull government, and show we are prepared for a fight if they are re-elected.

There is every reason to believe we can beat Turnbull. His popularity has been falling. The gloss has come off. People can see he stands for everything Abbott did: refugee cruelty, homophobia, climate inaction, attacking Medicare, union-bashing, and handouts for the rich.

We need to connect these fights and build a united fightback against the Liberals’ agenda. Students can help lead this fight.

Join the National Day of Action, Wednesday May 11, 1pm, Fisher Library, Sydney University.

Education Officer’s Report – Week 8, Sem 1, 2016

Another dire week for higher education in Australia. At USYD the forces of evil continue to press for staff and curriculum cuts. With the federal Budget approaching and a 20% cut to higher education funding, university management’s corporate agenda is only encouraged.

Management is cautious of the wins made by student and staff united campaigns over the years whether protecting jobs and knocking back proposed cuts. They want to silently cut back! But we have our ears to the ground. We suggested that the restructure and faculty mergers was a way for management to cut down on the courses offered at USYD and this reality is now proven with restructuring in biology well underway cutting down the first year courses offered from four to two.
While cutting back in some areas the University’s plans also threaten to increase the work load of its staff. The University has been unable to respond to critiques made of the new B.Advance Studies from the with the Arts faculty.

Not only is the new degree program designed to decrease enrollments in current three year programs inorder to justify future moves a compulsory four year degree structure, but its associated new 4000 level units place a huge burden on smaller and medium sized departments. They simply ask ‘how can we provide 4000 level units with the current funding and staffing arrangements’?

History suggests the likely solution will not be to increase the amount of staff and funding for the departments but to shift full time workers to casual and teaching only positions.

So what can we do about it? We do what we always do, we stand up and we fight back!

With our education under attack by both management and the liberals, the Education Officers have been busy planning the May 11 post budget rally, holding working bees and handing out flyers. But we need your help so make sure you get over to the Education Action Group weekly meetings 2pm Tuesdays on the
Law Lawns (if lost give me a message on 0432 236 668).

While the University has its spending priorities subordinate not to education quality but a competition for budget surpluses and prestige we need to be clear that the problem stems from federal policy. The government should provide a fully funded education system and needs to move away from neoliberal measures like fee deregulation, funding cuts and hiking up student contribution fees. On May 11 get to fisher library and march with us against fee deregulation’s $100,000 degrees, against a reduction in the HECs threshold and demand a free and fully funded education system!

Education Officer’s Report – Week 5, Sem 1, 2016

Liam Carrigan and Dylan Griffiths

On the 6th of April, Education Action Group members staged a peaceful protest at the Howard Cup upon discovering that Higher Education Minister Simon Birmingham would be in attendance. Previously, Birmingham had confirmed that after being placed on hold fee deregulation remained government policy alongside media reports that a 20% cut to federal funding, a 10% spike in HECS interest, lowering the HECS repayment threshold and collecting the debt of dead students could all also feature in the upcoming budget.
As students, we do not want to let these attacks go unnoticed or stand back silently and let accessible, quality education be destroyed in this country. We converged outside the event at Fisher in solidarity with the marginalized and working class students who would be locked out of education should these horrific policies pass.
Upon being refused entry, we began to chant peacefully and affirmed that while we would not resist anyone entering we believed it essential that we protest the event as is within our rights. Unfortunately the organizers or riot cops – called preemptively to our arrival – did not agree. Within fifteen minutes we were violently removed from the scene by police. Multiple students were pushed, shoved, trampled, lifted by all fours and treated with excessive and cruel force. We had the right to be in our library on our terms and we have the right to mobilize for our rights. It’s pretty telling that the state will go to any length to silence students in their fight for a better future.
Maybe it’s because we have won before – students united have never been defeated. On our campus we won the fight against the cutting of 300 jobs, stood with staff during the strikes and are currently waging a campaign against the neoliberal restructuring of our University. Nationally, in 2014 and 2015 we beat back fee deregulation through a united student movement and strong leadership from the left that saw thousands mobilize and similar stunts to our protest at Fisher last night.
We have similar fights ahead, that will require a reenergized and militant student movement. The University recently released its 2016-2020 Strategic Plan. Once the bullshit has been waded through it presents itself as little more then a framework for the corporatization and neoliberalisation of our campus and its community over the next four years. There are indications of staff and course cuts, a willingness to allow the private sector to fund our University and degree restructuring that will increase student debt significantly. On a national scale we need similar mobilizations to those seen in 2014. On April 13th NSW will be partaking in the National Day of Action with a student speak out at Fisher Library in anticipation for and to support building a mass student mobilization against the budget in May.
It’s never been a better or more essential time to get involved in the fight back against attacks on education. Join the Education Action Group at 2pm on the New Law Lawns – we have proven we can still make a scene!

Education Officer’s Report – Week 3, Sem 1, 2016

The March 16 rally against the restructure is now a staff and student rally co–hosted by the National Tertiary Education Union. The restructure’s faculty amalgamations will see general staff lose their jobs, decreasing support for academics, leading to a decrease in our education quality. This is why we must fight back!

In the University’s latest paper on the new degree program ‘next steps’, Pip Pattison (the DVC, previously employed by Melbourne University) showcases the new Bachelor of Philosophy. Indeed it seems that some of SRCs biggest fears are coming true. Smaller schools and departments will struggle to provide the new 4000 level subjects required for a major under arrangements made by the new B/Phil. One high up academic in the school of Arts and Social Sciences claims this will lead to larger departments adopting the curriculums of smaller ones. It was also reported that the B.phil will also lead to curriculum and staff cuts as small departments, centres, and programs close, unable to provide the with the new degree program.

The B.phil threatens the current honours system. ‘Next steps’ proposes that B.phil students can be awarded honours if they graduate with a credit average and after the completion of a forth year project. One academic noted that this new honours system will not qualify students for entry in to PHD programs in the faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS). One footnote in the paper noted that the University plans to completely phase-out honours as a pathway towards a PHD moving students into masters programs. But the vast majority of masters’ placements are full fee paying, more generalized and two years in length.

Running two honours programs concurrently will place further hurt small departments already underfunded. Vertical degrees are still considered in the new degree structure. Vertical degrees include a generalized undergraduate degree followed by a deregulated postgraduate specialized degree. This is the University’s way of shifting a bigger cost onto to students, it will see us spend more time studying at University and see average student debt increase exponentially.

The Centre of Peace and Conflict Studies has also been dragged in to the USYD restructure with the Australian reporting that its independence could be lost through a merger with FASS.

The SRC will stand up for students and staff! In the first week of semester we hosted an open meeting at SCA. Here students moved a motion with consensus condemning plans to move SCA from Callan Park and merging with FASS. The Education Officers have been leafleting and lecture bashing classes to promote the March 16th rally, but there is no doubt that the campus needs to activate if we are to stop the restructure.  This Wednesday join students and staff marching to Michael Spence’s office and demand – NO STAFF CUTS – NO DEGREE CUTS – NO TO SCHOOL AND FACULTY MERGERS.

Dylan Griffiths

Education Officer’s Report – Week 1, Sem 1, 2016

The Education Officers didn’t see summer. On the last day of work for 2015, University staff were emailed by the University chancellor, Belinda Hutchinson, and given confirmation that massive changes to the University’s structure would occur over the next few years. The changes include a shift from the current 16 faculties and standalone schools to nine faculties and standalone schools. The email also confirmed the University would be cutting the amount of degrees offered from 122- 20. Unlike the cuts to the alumni and staff elected Senate Fellows the faculty amalgamations and degree cuts have not been heavily scrutinised in the media.

We oppose the restructure and demand no faculty and school mergers, no staff cuts, and no degree cuts. The University in one of their 2015 strategy papers noted that the restructure aimed to ‘ease the burden of administration’ (code for staff cuts) and to prevent ‘overlapping’ and ‘duplication’ in the curriculum. But we don’t want a generalised undergraduate education which is understaffed and poorly funded!

The University wants to swiftly push through these changes. There are signs that suggest the process of amalgamating the faculties is already well underway with current faculties Agriculture and Veterinary science now appearing under the Science faculty’s new school of Life Sciences and the Environment on USYDs website. But we will not be left on the back foot!

The Education Action Group has met regularly over the break and been a site of robust debate including a discussion over the first steps of the restructure campaign, would the EAG call open meetings for students to discuss the changes? or should we be calling a rally immediately? The EAG voted to call a rally for March 16 1PM at the Carslaw Building, we hope to see you there! Students can win, we stopped the merger of Political Economy in 2011 and prevented the cutting of over 300 jobs in 2012. We can stop the restructure!

But the immediacy of the faculty mergers demands a campaign which is centred on radical student democracy. This is why we have started calling open meetings such as Wednesday’s (02/03) meeting in Sydney College of the Arts’ Auditorium to discuss the proposed shutdown of its Rozelle campus. If you’re in a faculty or school affected by the mergers keep an eye out for similar events and get in contact with us Education Officers.

Learn more about the changes on the Fight the USYD Restructure Facebook page or by picking up a copy of the SRC’s Counter Course. The Counter Course Handbook contains a non–marketing washed undergraduate subject guide and a variety of articles concerning our campus and education. This publication has also been subject to EAG and SRC executive scrutiny, indeed the subject data received to write the Counter Course has declined over the years and when the Education Officers are busy with a campaign (like the restructure) it can be a challenge to finish such a time consuming task. On the flip side this magazine looks and reads amazingly with articles on discrimination, education activism, pedagogy, and of course the restructure.

We’re here to fight for your education, but we need your voice to join the debate! So every Tuesday at 2PM on the Law lawns join the EAG meeting and lead the fight forward.

Education Officers
Dylan Griffiths and Liam Carrigan

Students Win – Deregulation Dropped By Turnbull

This month saw deregulation dropped by the Turnbull government, in what should be recognised as a massive victory for students everywhere. This is the result of a sustained campaign against fee deregulation and further cuts to higher education funding. Higher education policy has not been championed by any political party, they only ever respond to public pressure, opposition and dissent, so congratulations should go to all the community groups that changed hearts and minds, who campaigned and rallied and ensured fee deregulation would not be pushed through. We’re seeing significant institutions like Universities Australia drop their support of fee deregulation after years of public pressure, and that’s a huge moment for the student movement.

Michael Spence went to Sydney Morning Herald recently, sensing that deregulation was not long for the Turnbull government, pleading that the government not rule out student fee hikes. This bold article of spin must have pleased the university overlords because not long after its release, Michael Spence, our own Vice Chancellor, was elected chair of Group of Eight Australia, and was praised for his “energetic commitment”. This is big news for this campus, because while Michael Spence has always been one of the more aggressive Vice Chancellors in backing the government’s reforms, the University of Sydney has been able to mobilise great numbers of students.

Following a cross campus meeting we held last week, which was initially planned to nail fee deregulation’s coffin but became about the direction of the campaign over this next period where an immediate attack does not exist, it’s been decided that the priority for the rest of the year should be on campus, where those immediate threats do exist. This includes attacks like the removal of simple extensions, the fact that students are being pursued even harder for plagiarism, concurrent with an incredibly aggressive proposed restructure of the university.

It was great to hear that the restructure had near unanimous opposition in the recent SRC elections, and I look forward to seeing what the campaign can achieve with next year’s council. I encourage any new councillors to get involved with the Education Action Group on Tuesdays at 2 PM on the New Law Lawns to join the campaign.

Education Report: Fighting a uni restructure, funding cuts and Job losses

The University of Sydney discussion paper released just over a month ago on the “strategy” of  “undergraduate offerings” at the university has signalled a massive restructure of the University through the 2016-2020 period.

The discussion paper and statements Vice Chancellor Michael Spence has made to the media suggest that the University of Sydney is to emulate the “Melbourne model”, a model of tertiary education based on the University of Melbourne, in pursuit of a top ranking for the country or region.

What this means in practice is cutting over a hundred undergraduate degrees, resulting in a broadened (generic) education to push more students into more expensive postgraduate study. Already the University is suggesting necessarily extending three-year degrees to a further fourth year, and changing double degrees from “horizontal” (two concurrent undergraduate degrees) to “vertical” (an undergraduate degree followed by a postgraduate degree ($$$)).

These changes would have a big impact on the amount of money you’d need to study here, and appears to be an internal response to a) a very real lack of funding from the government (Australia ranks 33rd out of 34 OECD countries in terms of higher education funding as a percentage of GDP) b) the failure of university fee deregulation to pass the Senate, which included a further 20% cut in higher education funding, for which Michael Spence was a devout and adamant advocate.

Join students and staff from the NTEU and the EAG on the 5th of August outside the Madsen building at 1 PM to protest the hundreds of job cuts this would mean for staff, and on the 19th of August at 1 PM on the New Law Lawns to join a nationwide campaign for better conditions for universities. Get further involved by coming to EAG meetings on the New Law Lawns on Tuesdays at 2 PM throughout semester.