In a financial drought faced by universities, the lack of funds from international students has forced local students to be squeezed of every last drop by cash-strapped tertiary institutes.
University of Technology Sydney student, and Education Officer for the Student Council, Ellie Woodward, has said she and fellow students have been feeling “like cash cows” following a $3.2 million cut to the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and a doubling of fees for a majority of humanitarian courses.
She says her Environmental Action Group (EAG)’s demands are to stop the “cutting down of the quality of our education” and to “let staff — who are the ones that teach us — and students — who are the ones that are learning — decide what we learn, not just what makes the most money.”
“And also, let’s stop cutting the very courses that examine colonisation, Indigenous history, women’s history, all of that; those are our demands.” This is in reference to a decision by UTS to cut certain courses such as ‘Sex, Race and Empire’, which explored the historical and ongoing impacts of colonialism.
Ellie and the EAG expressed their frustration defiantly at the very (green) heart of the campus, last month. Future students are expected to pay a significant 113% increase in fees for degrees in humanities and communications subjects. With fees rising, more classes moving online, and the mass ‘casualisation’ of teaching staff, to save on salary spending, the EAG’s concern for the quality of education being delivered for its price, is what they are fighting to fix.
The protest on the alumni lawn attracted the usual fanfare of campus security, who laughed as the rally went ahead with numerous current staff and students turning up to show that the issue was a valid concern that didn’t fly under the radar on their Facebook feed.
With their chants of “No Cuts!”, they reflected the feelings of a lot of students.
In a request for comment from the office of Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Education and Students) Professor Shirley Alexander, a spokesperson from UTS stated that there is “a further 100 to 150 full time equivalent job losses” to be expected and that UTS was faced with a “deficit of $43.1 million” at the end of 2020.
With an approximate “$70 million and $58 million” deficit in 2021 and 2022, additional cuts are expected to continue towards courses and staff salaries.
Kinsey McGregor, a student at UTS studying Digital Communication and Media, spent her first year studying via online classes. With such a hands-on and practical degree, the transition online “made it really hard to care for my degree”.
“I couldn’t tell you what the inside of most of these classrooms look like”, she said.
Subject coordinator for Communications, Timothy Laurie spoke on the issues that have been present for online learning.
“The way that the subject has been taught, students are loving it, teachers are loving it, but if there is a decision ... made much higher up in the hierarchy that says, ‘We don’t want to continue with this subject,’ then that’s it.”
It’s important for people to feel like things are working well in their school or their program, that the things that are working well [be] represented, and that good teaching or the good research is being heard.”
The rally dispersed after 40 minutes of talks and speeches from staff and students, who certainly had the University’s attention now.