Victorian students rally against education reforms

Words and image by William Ton | @williamhton

University students in Victoria took to the streets on the National Day of Action (March 21) to protest the Turnbull government’s plans to reform higher education funding.

Students protested outside the State Library of Victoria against the government’s decision to freeze $2.2 billion of tertiary education funding for two years, likening the cuts to a “systematic attack on the ability of lower socioeconomic people to access education”.

The freeze has seen an increase in tutorial sizes with the number of students in tutorial classes reaching 35 at Monash University, National Union of Students (NUS) Queer Officer, Jasmine Duff, said on Wednesday.

“There’s barely enough time to actually talk to your tutor as they have too many students to deal with,” she added.

“We pay thousands and thousands of dollars in fees every year and yet our universities have been telling us students that they can’t afford to pay for PhD qualified tutors to teach us.”

The students also rallied against government plans to lower the HECs repayment threshold from $52,000 down to $42,000, and a lifetime borrowing limit for student loans, both of which require legislative approval and was shot down in the Senate in 2017.

The group of protesters slammed the Turnbull government’s decision to establish a $3.8 billion fund to boost weapons manufacturing, while imposing a freeze on $2 billion from education.

“For the Liberals, machines of death trump places of learning,” NUS National Education Officer, Con Karavias said.

“We’re raising our voices for a world where knowledge and understanding matter more than bombs and tanks.”

Around 50 protesters affiliated with the National Union of Students and Socialist Alternative parties gathered for the event before marching down Swanston Street.

Victorian Socialists member and former NUS Education Officer, Anneke D’emanuele, said the aim of these events was to create awareness of the cuts to education for the larger population of university tertiary students.

“These campaigns have always been the main way we’ve pushed back against the government cuts to higher education,” she told Catalyst News.

“In 2014, when the government tried to deregulate university fees, it was students coming out on the streets that really had the biggest effect in pushing back (against) the plan to destroy education.”

Rallies were held around the country in most capital cities to pressure the Turnbull government to drop their tertiary education reforms.


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