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Higher education issues rife for National Day of Action

Wednesday, 25 March, 2015

Student activists have broadened their focus for the National Day of Action on March 25, after the Higher Education Reform Bill was voted down for the second time in the Senate.

University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) president Rachel Withers was glad to see that the Bill had failed to pass.

Withers is still, however, concerned about university deregulation, as Education Minister Christopher Pyne has vowed to bring the Bill to the Senate for a third time.

“Deregulation is grossly unfair, and would be disastrous to higher education as we know it,” Withers said.

Spokesperson for the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation (ALSF) Matthew Lesh was strongly in favour of university deregulation, advocating that the Government continue to pursue reform.

“The status quo, in which places are uncapped, however universities cannot raise the revenue necessary to educate students, is simply unsustainable.”

Further higher education issues will also be brought to public awareness on Wednesday.

The NUS Welfare Office has published a national campaign for Australian undergraduate students who are against raising the age of eligibility for the Newstart Allowance, as well as the introduction of a waiting period for obtaining the Newstart Allowance.

“We’ll also be putting more of an emphasis on opposing the proposed cuts to research and course funding because the intention of the government is still to cut funding to universities,” Withers explained.

“Anything that negatively impacts students such as the Centrelink cuts, the changes to Newstart, is something that we’re going to be vocal about and speaking out against on Wednesday,” Withers said.

National Union of Students (NUS) Education Officer Hannah Smith said that the NUS have cast a wide net in the lead up to the rally.

“The NUS have engaged with students on university campuses, led street campaigns, worked with the NTEU (National Tertiary Education Union) and Get Up! as well as having lobbied with crossbenchers,” Smith said.

National Day of Action campaigners however face dissent from the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation (ALSF), who believe that graduates should pay extra in order to fund better degrees.

“The fairest way to fund universities is not by asking relatively poorer taxpayers to subsidise the education of the middle and upper class, but to ask graduates, who will earn on average $1 million extra throughout their lifetimes,” Lesh said.

Lesh has also expressed contempt for the work of the NUS in regards to the National Day of Action, claiming such rallies are ultimately fruitless pursuits.

“The National Union of Students previous protest actions have proven disgraceful, embarrassing, and unrepresentative. Shutting down city streets and violently confronting police is no way to partake in an important political dialogue,” Lesh said.

In Melbourne, student activists will meet in front of the State Library on March 25 at 2.00 pm.