The developing world economic downturn means that universities will be looking to cut back on costs. Cuts to courses, funding and jobs are all on the cards. Already during the ‘boom’ some campuses have lost staff and some courses have been cut.
The coming recession comes on the back of over ten years of reductions in government grants to universities. We have seen students pay for this via increased HECS fees and by international students being used as cash cows. This has been the case both under Coalition and Labor governments. What students really need is a return to free tertiary education, such as was provided in the mid 1970s and up until the late 1980s.
But neither the Labor government, with its so-called “Education Revolution” nor the Liberals can, or are willing to provide this. Even though Kevin Rudd has admitted that he and many current MPs themselves received the benefit of a free university education he has said “we can’t go back to those days”. This claim however is totally untrue, even in the midst of a recession. There are vast amounts of wealth available in society, and what better way to invest it than in essential services for ordinary people, such as education.
We have a situation in Australia where universities are increasingly being run like businesses, rather than social institutions. Education is being provided on a ‘for-profit’ basis, rather than for the sole purpose of educating people so they can play a productive role in society. Education should be a right and not a commodity to make profit from.
The only way to go back to free education in Australia would be on the basis of socialist policies. To win this we would need a mass, democratic campaign of students, education workers and trade unions. The demand for free education goes hand in hand with the demand for the total repeal of the Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU) legislation that has severely wounded the ability of students to organise on campus.
We also need more, not less courses, affordable student accommodation and better facilities on campus. Students and staff must organise to fight back against any cuts proposed by the Labor Government or university administrations.
The Socialist Party calls for not one dollar, not one job and not one course to be cut. We need free tertiary education in all fields to be available to everyone. Why should education only be available on the basis of being rich, or going into debt? Why should education be for profit? The answers are it shouldn’t!
The Socialist Party stands for a society where education is a right, not a commodity, and where students and staff alike are properly resourced including decent wages and conditions. We stand for a society run on the basis of the needs of the many, not the profits of a few. If you agree you should join the fight by joining the Socialist Party.
By SP reporters