SCU protests 'higher education swindle'

SCU PhD student Meaghan Vox with SCU Craig Wilson
SCU PhD student Meaghan Vox with SCU Craig Wilson Jasmine Burke

THE government's planned higher education cuts has Southern Cross University calling on politicians to heed the calls of the sector to stand up as defenders of higher education.

Yesterday, university staff were joined by students as part of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) Branch National Day of Protest.

SCU NTEU branch secretary and postgraduate association, Craig Wilson said if the government's higher education reform package passes the Senate, the impact on staff and students will lead to job losses, bigger class sizes, less course choice, support services cut and employment insecurity.

He said it would have a particularly bad effect on regional universities, and SCU already struggled under the last round of budget cuts.

"The fees won't go back to the university to replace the money they lost after the cuts, most of these fee increases will go back to the federal government," Mr Wilson said.

"The extra sting is really going to affect people particularly with the cost of housing and rental prices."

He said the fate of the bill lays in the hands of 11 cross bench senators, and the purpose of the protest was to get everyone to write to those senators and ask them to vote against the bill.

"Putting a fee on (introductory courses) is really going to discourage many disadvantaged Australians from even thinking about going to university."

If the legislation gets through it will affect generations of students to come, he said.

The NTEU held the day to call upon the Australian senate to reject: all cuts to higher education in the 2017 federal budget; increases in the HECS HELP rates and decreases in the repayment threshold.

SCU PhD student, Meaghan Vosz said she is most concerned about the prospect of withdrawal of funding.

"The university is one of the largest employers in our region - it's a really big driving force behind our regional sustainability," Ms Vosx said.

"The introduction of fees means we will have less nurses, less teachers, scientists, engineers and less social workers."

SCU Vice Chancellor Adam Shoemaker said the session attracted more than 540 signatures.

"The federal government doesn't realise the impact of the planned legislation on real people," Mr Shoemaker said.

"It's so far divorced from the real lived experience of people who are in debt. At this moment 7% of the Australian population are retiring this year still in debt.

"(It's) setting up a debt trap for the future. One scholarship student... is working three different part-time jobs totalling 60 hours a week just to make ends meet as well as studying full time.

"It won't even just be noticed, it'll wreck a lot of people's careers.

"I think there's this idea that universities are awash with cash, it's just so untrue," he said.

Topics:  northern rivers education nteu national day of protest southern cross university

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