Students without classrooms

March 11, 1998

By Mel Bull

Many University of Western Sydney (UWS) students are wondering what hit their campus over the Christmas break. Not only is David Barr, the chief executive officer of Macarthur campus, pushing for up-front fees, but students on Rydalmere campus have to sit on the ground in tents for the first six weeks of classes — all as UWS is being restructured.

At present, only those students enrolled in one subject have to pay up-front fees at Macarthur. Last year, the UWS board of trustees rejected more up-front fees for 1998. Barr is now pushing for fees in 1999, threatening that Macarthur will secede from UWS if necessary.

"Up-front fees introduce a person's wealth as a major determining factor in their level of education. How can we support a system in which a person needs money to gain knowledge?", said Martin Schultz, the Student Union's education officer.

At the new Rydalmere campus, lecture theatres and libraries have not been completed in time for the start of session. Large marquees are set up next to the makeshift cafeteria on the field. One student said that if you are late for a class, you often have to sit on the ground or even outside the "door".

Following funding cuts, restructuring is also taking place at Nepean campus, where 20 schools have replaced eight faculties.

Melissa deSilva, the small and regional officer for the National Union of Students NSW, said: "We are being told that the change will make it easier for students to do subjects in different schools, creating more flexibility as well as making the university economical and user-friendly. However, the result could be that the so-called leisure subjects are lost or reinvented; already Asian Studies has been moved from Humanities to the School of Business."

Schultz says, "For some, the concept of education as having no monetary value has been lost, but the battle isn't over yet". Stephanie Roper from Resistance said, "The campaign against these regressive changes needs to mobilise as many UWS students as possible. This should be the aim of the newly formed UWS Network of Student Councils."

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