Attacks on students and education are not acceptable

Students protest over funding cuts at the State Library in central Melbourne. Picture: Yuting Feng

By Yuting Feng

Students from Melbourne universities gathered outside the State Library of Victoria as a part of nationwide protest, fighting for the rights of students to accessible and higher quality education.

The National Union of Students (NUS) organized the protest under a slogan of “ Make Education Free Again”.

The slogan came from the biggest campaign of 2017 that education department of National Union of Students launched during orientation week of universities in Australia.

“The campaign is about arguing that education in Australia used to be provided for free to university students,” Anneke Demanuele, the education officer of National Union of Students said.

Protests to make education free again. Picture: Yuting Feng

“University students in Australia should once again be able to get education for free.”

“Instead of spending on giving tax cuts to the rich or spending money on buying more weapons of war, we think that money should be put actually into things that people need, like education, rather than into the pocket of the rich.”

Ms Demanuele said the campaign aimed to stop any government attacks to education and university, and it aimed to fight for accessible education for all students in Australia.

Based on the press release by National Union of Students, the Minister for Higher Education Simon Birmingham has flagged his support for partial and full fee deregulation, which was what the union fought against in 2014.

Ms Demanuele said student protest had its history of effectively changing government’s policy.

“In 2014, they wanted to deregulate university fees and the university would be able to charge whatever they wanted for courses,” she said.

“It was modelled that education could go up to $100,000 per degree.”

“We had a big student protest then for back against changing university funding and we think protest is like continue to mean that the government can’t get the policy passed in the senate and the parliament.”

Budget 2016 of the Federal Government has revealed, full fee deregulation scrapped but the universities still faced 20 per cent funding cut which was also announced in the 2014 Budget.

Ms Demanuele said although full fee deregulation had been taken out of the budget proposal last year, the government could introduce partial fee deregulation for certain flagship courses.

She said it was not just that the cost of education that kept on rising, it was also that government support for students did not rise in line.

“Living on $30 a day is untenable for ordinary students,” Ms Demanuele said.

Matilda Grey, the president of Monash Student Association, said any attacks on students or higher education meant that people who were already poorly off in society got marginalized even further.

“I’m from rural western of Australia and there is only handful people that even went to university,” she said.

“It’s very hard for rural students to access to university, especially if you come from a family that doesn’t have much money and they can’t afford you to come to university.”

Ms Grey said she had to move outside of home and pay for rent and bills herself.

“If university fees are put up higher and higher, then I have less in essence to go to university because it’s just so inaccessible.”

“It does become a struggle that the more pressure they put on students financially, the more time students have to take out of there in life so attending university become more and more difficult and that just means that we’re not able to contribute to society in a long run because we’re not given equal opportunities to education.”