TAFE students discuss education cuts

Issue 

By Natasha Izatt
MELBOURNE — Over 30 delegates from 14 TAFE colleges discussed the major issues affecting TAFE student organisations at the Victorian TAFE Students and Apprentices Conference on September 23-24. VTSAN coordinator Maurice Sibelle spoke about the many problems TAFE restructuring was creating for students. "Colleges are charging unfair and illegal material fees, international students are being exploited for profit without colleges providing support services, student grievances are not being adequately dealt with and fees have increased", he said.
"On top of this the state government's Voluntary Student Unionism legislation is impacting negatively on the ability of student organisations to defend students' rights." Under Victoria's repressive VSU legislation student organisations are not allowed to use compulsory non-academic fees (formerly the student union fee) for representation or any activity of a political nature.
Other speakers included: Bill Deller, research officer at the Victoria University of Technology; Adrienne Barrett, women's officer at Victoria University of Technology; and Margaret de Bruyn, student representative from Peninsula college of TAFE.
Deller discussed the effects of restructuring on TAFE. Barrett spoke about involving women in student organisations and de Bruyn reported on the formation of the cross-campus TAFE student organisation, Students Against Nuclear Development.
How TAFE student organisations were surviving the VSU legislation was also discussed. Delegates heard from solicitor Rob Wright, VTSAN staff and Melbourne University president Emma Johnston.
Sibelle told Green Left Weekly, "The TAFE sector has no choice. It has to comply with the legislation because it is state funded. Some higher education students have labelled our position a sell-out. I should remind them that accepting federal funding is the same as complying with VSU. Only allowable activities are funded through the compulsory non-academic fees.
"The problem is that once the higher education student organisations received funding from the federal government they stopped campaigning against VSU. TAFE students are opposed to VSU but we do not have the resources to mount a serious campaign."
There are 28 TAFE colleges in Victoria, 25 of which had student organisations at the start of 1995. As a result of VSU legislation, three colleges lost their student organisations and a further seven are threatened with closure.

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