On July 26, around 200 angry students and staff from the University of Melbourne (MU) arts faculty and the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) protested the university's butchering of its arts courses. The protest was in response to the university's decision to ram through the "Melbourne Model", an elitist, US-style graduate system aimed at reducing student/staff numbers and subject choices, which would create a two-tiered education system.
Attacks so far have included a proposal to scrap all current undergraduate degrees at the VCA, which became a faculty of MU this year.
The Melbourne Age reported on July 11 that "the faculty would slash its staff budget by up to 12 per cent, encouraging older and non-research academics to take redundancy packages and axing casual lecturers and tutors".
This means up to 130 staff from the arts faculty and one in four first-year art/humanities subjects are to go. MU also informed the VCA student union (VCASU) earlier this year that it would no longer fund the student organisation, coercing a merge with MU's student union (UMSU). VCASU — already operating on 30% of its normal budget after the Howard government introduced Voluntary Student Unionism in 2005 — vowed not to merge and is now surviving off its reserves.
VCASU has been among the most vocal opponents of the Melbourne Model, and it's members and representatives were instrumental in successfully blockading the public launch of the model earlier this year.
VCASU education research officer Allyson Hose told Green Left Weekly: "If MU is successful in [its] agenda, more uni bureaucracies are bound to start following MU's example. It's absolutely crucial that they don't get away with this."
Some 100 demonstrators, including representatives of UMSU, VCASU, Resistance and Socialist Alternative, made their way through the entrance of the philosophy building where the MU Academic Board was meeting. Several students were injured when private security guards tried to prevent them from entering.
Students occupied the second floor of the building, calling for MU Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis to be sacked and demanding that there be no staff or subject cuts and that the VCA and arts at MU be saved. The dean of the arts faculty, professor Belinda Probert, eventually faced the students but backed away from any responsibility.
Students vowed to continue the campaign and will hold another next protest on August 1, meeting at 12.45pm outside MU's Union House.