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During his time at our very own Sydney University, Tony Abbott once said that the “The Students’ Representative Council (SRC) is unnecessary and superfluous”. A right-wing, anti-union bastard from the very beginning of his political career, he was an enemy of student rights then, and remains so to this day. With Abbott and the rest of the Liberal party in power, students need to be ready to fight in 2014.
Abbott and his education minister, Pyne, are committed to rolling out the $2.3 billion in cuts, which will further strain the already underfunded tertiary education system. Sydney Uni alone is predicted to see $50 million slashed, which will result in ever-expanding class sizes, deteriorating staff conditions and the undermining of diverse and quality education with further course cuts. Abbott has also launched an inquiry into higher education that will only be used as an excuse to go on the attack. Already there has been talk of privatizing HECS. Along with the undermining of student welfare, the gates of places like Sydney University will effectively become shut to working class students.
Universities today are already run like businesses and education treated like a commodity. What motivates university management and the government is not ensuring a decent education system, but defending their cushy lifestyles. In 2012 Sydney Uni Vice Chancellor Michael Spence “earned” a cool $744,143 along with a “performance” bonus of $167,432, while simultaneously attempting to cut hundreds of jobs.
These job cuts, course cuts, and undermining of staff wages and conditions have become commonalities of university life today. Unsurprisingly, Michael Spence’s bonuses don’t seem to be under threat. The most recent cuts are a neoliberal’s fantasy, and will turn higher education into a user pays system only accessible to those who have enough money. The privatization of HECS moves the university further away from being a public amenity accessible to all, to a private business transaction between individuals and corporations.
But it’s not all bad news. The past two years at Sydney University have seen a fighting response to numerous attacks staff and students by university management. After Spence announced the axing of 360 jobs in 2012, the National Tertiary Education Union led a serious campaign of mass on-campus rallies, supported by the SRC and Education Action Group (EAG), which managed to save a large portion of these jobs. In 2013, in response to attacks on staff wages, conditions and union rights the NTEU struck for seven days, and with the solidarity of students organised by the SRC and EAG, managed a decisive victory.
2013 also saw a vibrant national student campaign led by the National Union of Students (NUS) against the $2.3 billion in cuts to universities. Rallies were held in every capital city across the country; the biggest mobilisations since the anti-VSU campaign in 2005. The campaign was a success, turning higher education into an election issue, and forcing the ALP to vote against the cuts (the ones it initially introduced) in the Senate last year.
At Sydney Uni, Abbott also spoke also wearily of the “Marxists…that are operating in the universities.” We’re proud to say that we are the Marxists that Abbott warned you about. We are the student activists who not only fight for education, but against all the injustices that capitalism produces. Our SRC is a political body that should actively and proudly campaign around left-wing issues. After all, the same people attacking our education are attacking refugees, Indigenous rights and the working class. We want to use our position to show solidarity with, and link up the struggles waged by all groups that are fucked over by our disgusting conservative governments, because our movements are stronger when united. Among others, we are involved in the campaigns for refugee rights, equal marriage rights, abortion rights, Indigenous rights and in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Apartheid Israel.
But the only way we will win anything, from a decent education system to social justice, is through mass action. In 2014 we need more students involved in activism and out on the streets. NUS has already announced their major campaign for the year ahead: “Abbott and Pyne: Get Your Hands Off our Education” and the first national day of action has been called for March 26th. To successfully take on Abbott, we’re going to need all students who want to defend their education to join the campaign.
Here’s how to get involved:
At Sydney Uni we’ll be organising this campaign through the Education Action Group, which is the central activist collective on campus. The EAG holds weekly meetings, where students get together to discuss education issues both on campus and nationally, and organises around fighting the cuts.
The NSW Education Action Network exists to link up EAGs from all campuses across Sydney to discuss and plan education activism at a state wide level. In 2013 the EAN was responsible for the Sydney NDAs, which throughout the year drew hundreds of students into education activism.
- Contact the education officers Eleanor & Ridah – (e) firstname.lastname@example.org (ph) 0448 029 165 & 0402 667 707
- Like the Sydney Uni EAG page - https://www.facebook.com/SydneyUniversityEducationActionGroup
- Attend the weekly EAG meetings: Tuesdays at 2pm, New Law Lawns.
- Get involved with the NSW EAN by visiting: https://www.facebook.com/groups/198338006976375/
The Education Action Group (EAG)
The Sydney University Education Action Group (EAG) is a registered collective of the Sydney University Students’ Representative Council (SRC). The EAG involves students and staff in the fight for a free and quality education system, and organises against proposed attacks to education both on campus and at a nationwide level. The EAG is convened each year by the education officers of the SRC.
In 2013, the EAG was crucial in the fight against the $2.3 billion in cuts to higher education proposed by the Labor Goverment. The EAG organised on-campus actions, stalls, and photo petitions which helped get Sydney Uni students along to rallies against the cuts in the city. The EAG successfully linked up with the Education Action Network (EAN), a group which coordinates students across NSW in a collective education campaign.
The EAG sees university staff as our allies in the fight for a quality higher education system. In the last two years the EAG has been involved in organising student solidarity with university staff who have faced job and wage cuts, as well as attacks on their conditions. In 2012 the EAG organised students to support the National Tertiary Education Union’s (NTEU) campaign to defend 340 jobs that the university management wanted to cut. The campaign was a success, and helped establish a positive and constructive relationship between students and staff on campus.
In 2013, university management once again attempted to erode staff wages and conditions with a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement. The NTEU rejected this with a militant and collective industrial campaign, involving seven strike days throughout the year which effectively shut down the campus. The EAG lent its solidarity to university staff during their EBA campaign, attending the picket lines and standing shoulder to shoulder with staff; the people who make our university run, against a greedy and anti-union management. The NTEU scored another victory last year, and the EAG was proud to have supported, and contributed student solidarity to their campaign the whole way through.
The EAG is an activist collective which holds weekly meetings where students across university faculties can get together to discuss education issues and plan our fight back. All students are encouraged to get involved in the EAG.
- Contact the education officers Eleanor and Ridah at email@example.com
- Like the Sydney Uni EAG page – https://www.facebook.com/SydneyUniversityEducationActionGroup
- Attend the weekly EAG meetings (check the facebook page for time and place)