Your education is under attack. For years there have been cuts to the higher education sector by successive Labor and Liberal governments, and in a particularly audacious move, this has given Tony Abbott and his cronies the gall to propose to change the landscape of public universities in Australia forever through university fee deregulation. It is up to students to fight these attacks, and to build a movement for progressive change.
Though there are many, fee deregulation represents one of the most aggressive attacks on the working class by the Abbott government. Allowing universities to set their own fees will introduce a two-tier education system, which will mean that prestigious public universities like the University of Sydney will become inaccessible to most low- to middle-income earners and families. Student debt in Australia is set to double in just four years. Public universities are expected to compete with private education providers for government funding. The privatisation of our universities and the commodification of our education system must be stopped if we’re to prevent the government’s dream of an irrevocably stratified society.
The enemy doesn’t just exist in parliament. Our Vice Chancellor, Michael Spence, the University’s representative to Universities Australia, has lobbied for the deregulation of University fees in spite of overwhelming opposition from students, staff, and the general public. This is not unrelated to the hundreds of staff on this campus threatened with redundancies each year. This year, 156 library staff will be made redundant after the restructuring (and refurbishment) of our libraries. The neoliberalisation of universities is in the government’s and university management’s private interest, to protect their well-paid jobs and dominance in society. Education, however, is a public good, and people being able to attend university without the fear of impending fee hikes and crippling debt is in the public interest.
Last year, students from across the country took to the streets in some of the largest student protests ever seen in Australia, including thousands from the University of Sydney. Students from the Education Action Group (EAG) disrupted national television when Christopher Pyne was on Q&A, and chased a variety of conservative MPs off the very campuses they set out to destroy. The national campaign against fee deregulation was successful as the Bill was finally destroyed in the Senate, but mere hours after this victory, Chris Pyne reaffirmed his commitment to his ‘major’ higher education reforms, and reintroduced the Bill the next day. Round 2 began that night, and in 2015, it will again be up to students to defend the future of our education system.
This is a call to arms. We need your help! The Education Action Group (EAG) is the democratic forum in which most of the education actions around our university are planned. We meet weekly on the New Law Lawns. The first National Day of Action against fee deregulation has been called by the National Union of Students (NUS) and will be on the Wednesday the 25th of March.