Hundreds rally for tertiary education

Sam CucchiaraHundreds of staff and students from Victorian universities converged on the State Library in the CBD today to oppose cuts to higher education funding.The demonstrators marched to the office of higher education minister Kim Carr but were blocked from entering the building by an army of police.President of the National Tertiary and Education Union Jeannie Rea said universities should be publicly funded to ensure all students have access to a quality education.“Working class students are just dropping out in droves because they can’t pay the fees they’re expected to pay,” she said.According to Ms Rea, the government currently contributes around forty per cent of the cost for the education of a domestic student.But Ms Rea said it was “shameful” full fee paying international students were being used to subsidise the significantly lower fees of domestic students.  Ms Rea also attacked university funding models based on philanthropy, which are currently in operation in the UK.“We are not a charity,” she said.Education Officer of the National Student Union Claire Keyes-Liley said the recent cut to university funding was part of a much larger attack on universities.Ms Keyes-Liley said universities were first targeted in 2003, with an increase in the amount of HECs fees that would be raised as a student debt.She also urged students to support university staff in their strike action.  “It’s absolutely deplorable that universities are not giving students full information about why staff are striking,” she said.“If we don’t get staff that are adequately looked after, then we don’t get looked after.”Higher Education minister Kim Carr defended the government’s $2 billion cuts to the sector, and said the government could not afford to back away from its decision.Despite this, the government recently announced it would push for new universities in two regional seats to help more disadvantaged students.Greens spokesperson on higher education Lee Rhiannon said the Greens want the cuts to universities reversed, followed by increases to higher education funding at a cost of $1.5 million over four years, while Greens MP Adam Bandt said it’s disappointing Australian education is increasingly becoming a privilege and favouring the “wealthy few”.“We have to have a society where people are looked after, and the size of your bank balance doesn’t determine where you end up,” he said.Mr Bandt said real concerns should be raised about long-term staff that are employed on a casual basis.Staff employed casually are denied basic entitlements, such as paid leave.

August 20th 2013
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