The University of Western Sydney decided to sell off "the Swamp" and student residences at Kingswood and Werrington South campuses. A mass of degrees were merged into the Bachelor of Business and Commerce. Half the majors for the Bachelor of Economics were axed. These are just some of the many changes that happened to UWS in the first few weeks of semester.
Cuts in government funding have placed universities under severe financial pressure. Departments are under more strain than ever to prove that anything they offer is worth funding. It's easier to just cut back. Entire majors, degrees, campuses as well as jobs face the axe.
The UWS Students Association has had a massive grant cut this year — from $2.5 million to $450,000. "Voluntary student unionism" has compounded the problem and the organisation may not survive. UWS has more than 30,000 undergraduate students, mostly from working-class backgrounds. With a struggling university and student population, to lose the student union would be a disaster.
Fortunately, there is a contingent of UWSSA activists who never say die and the union is planning a membership drive, organised around a campaign about the course cuts and capital works concerns.
UWSSA needs a massive injection of funds. It needs to get the campuses active and have a constructive, though critical, relationship with the university.