About 700 students took to Curtin’s Stadium Oval on May 14 in protest against the government plans to cut funding to Australian universities by $2.3 billion – and Guild President Jess McLeod said the word on campus was that many were already feeling the pinch.
‘We’re running this education campaign because we’ve already seen course, subject and stream cuts, as well as a massive push to online learning to replace tutorials and lectures,’ she said.
‘I think it’s a dangerous trend that’s developing, where the government is not willing to fund higher education, so it’s going to become increasingly out of reach for disadvantaged students from poorer backgrounds.’
Ms McLeod said plans to turn student start-up scholarships into loans from early next year were particularly concerning, given the debt load which students already had when they left university.
‘We could be looking at a system where all income support is turned into debt for students,’ she said. ‘So the most disadvantaged students leave university with a far greater debt.
‘I think it does put students off the option of going to uni, particularly when you know you’re going to be entering the workforce with a huge debt. When you can get employment elsewhere, why would you put yourself through that?’
Curtin Education Vice President Sam Cavallaro said the protest had been a success, but it was important to keep the momentum of criticism going.
‘The turnout really exceeded our expectations,’ he said. ‘I think the students really enjoyed but also hearing about the government cuts in context.
‘This is the largest protest at Curtin since 1988, and I think it’s been a great way to get students involved.’