It has certainly been a busy time on campus since my last report. We have seen the potential policy decisions of universities illuminated in the wake of fee deregulation illuminated in the media, as well as the campus being physically illuminated as part of the Vivid festival. Students, collectively, have been busy taking part in and organising demonstrations such as the National Day of Action (NDA) against fee deregulation on May 21.
Despite seeing thousands of students mobilise at the most recent NDA, there are still thousands more students on the campus who remain politically unengaged. Some lack of engagement is understandable as the harms of deregulation can be hard to conceptualise since universities have total control over their own price, which means we can’t easily predict how much universities will decide to raise fees until it actually happens.
However, we can predict a few things. If these changes do go ahead we will see all courses receive, at minimum, 20% less funding. Fee deregulation as it stands is accompanied with large numbers of cuts to university funding across the board as well. This has lead both our Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence, and Melbourne’s VC Glyn Davis, to announce that under current predictions the fees for degrees such as science, engineering and medicine would need to rise by $5000 a year in order for universities to maintain their current levels of funding. Current and potential students need to let the government know just how angry they are over deregulation, and demonstrations like the NDA are a great way to do that.
Some, like journalist Annabel Crabb, have claimed that student demonstrations are ineffective but this is not true. The demonstrations have not only mobilised thousands of students but they have been featured on TV, within newspapers, in the jokes of the ABC’s Clarke and Dawe, and have drawn vast amounts of attention to a crucial issue. Their success is in the spotlight that they shine onto the issue, and as such, it is crucial that students ensure that scrutiny on the government over changes to universities is maintained.
Rallies and lobbying have more impact the more people are involved. Whilst it has been current students and staff expressing most of the discontent, they should not be the only ones. Other proposed changes, such as the proposed 6% interest rate, affect students both currently and retrospectively meaning that graduates would face increased financial burdens as well. I hope to see current, past and future students unite in a campaign against changes to higher education to ensure that it is still an equitable and accessible system.
Maintaining the rage can be difficult, particular when facing exams, but if the current policy decisions of the Abbott government are anything to go by I doubt we’ll have a problem.