Students fight back against education cuts

August 14, 2014
Education cuts rally in Melbourne in May. Photo: Chris Peterson

A few months ago, the Daily Telegraph ran a headline, “The Ferals are Revolting”.

That headline is very revealing, not just about the nature of the media, but also about how young people and students are seen in society in general. We are seen these things that are just supposed to work terrible jobs for terrible pay, and whatever our opinions are, they don’t really mean anything and we are just supposed to put up with it.

Considering that youth and students are generally undervalued and marginalised, and the impact the federal budget cuts will have on young people’s access to education, the fact that students are fighting back against the budget is not at all surprising.

This budget will mean cuts to funding for education, cuts to an already meagre welfare system and many other measures that ultimately will mean that youth and students will be much worse off.

We are being made ever more vulnerable and our lives are increasingly at the mercy of the cold logic of the private tyranny that is capital.

University degrees are becoming more like commodities, and very expensive commodities at that. Universities today are less like educational institutions than organisations providing a service to paying customers.

With the changes the government is bringing in, the costs of degrees are set to rise, in some cases dramatically so. The National Tertiary Education Union estimates the cost of medical degrees may go up to about $180,000 while law and engineering degrees will go over $100,000.

This generation of young people will also be in more debt than any other generation before us. On top of the increased cost of degrees there will be higher interest rates on student debts.

In addition to debt, with the state of the world economy and the lack of any evidence to support the notion that the global crisis will be over any time soon (in fact there is just the opposite), there is the strong possibility that we will be poorer than the generation before us. There will be fewer jobs and lower wages for an already heavily indebted generation.

What is to be done then? We can and should pressure the ALP and the Greens to stop this budget in parliament and when election time comes again, make it extremely difficult for the ALP to propose similar policies.

More importantly, we should continue to take to the streets. Not just young people and students but everyone whose fundamental interests are threatened by the Coalition government, including Aboriginal people, the women’s movement, the climate movement, refugees and people fighting for rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

We need to build a broad, mass social movement of people from all sections of society and we need to mobilise. This way we can be strong and make history because history isn’t made in parliament, it’s made on the streets.

[Ben Kohler is a student at the University of Wollongong. This is based on a speech he gave to a forum called “UOW Cuts and You” on August 7.]


All education can and should be free. Apart from the gross injustice imposed on students by the neoliberal, pro-One Percenter Coalition, 4 fundamental issues are missing from public discussion about "university deregulation" and are succinctly put below by one associated with universities for over 50 years variously as a student, researcher and teacher (key arguments in parentheses): 1. Australia needs a top quality scholarly and scientific research complement (respect for intellectual pursuits; postgraduate researcher training; national, environmental, agricultural, economic and health security ). 2. Impoverished undergraduate students should not have to pay for the national scholarly and scientific research complement (no more than they should be singled out for paying for Health, Defence , ASIO etc). 3. Top quality undergraduate tuition can be provided for 10% of the current cost (by casual academics doing the job in 10% of the time for 10% of the money - I know, I have done both full-time and part-time university and tertiary level teaching,both as a member of the National Tertiary Education Union , of course) and for 1% of the current cost (by expert academics and researchers on a part-time, user-pays basis providing rigorous examination of students doing the top quality courses (MOOCs) put on-line for free by top universities like 152-Nobel- Laureate Harvard and 83- Nobel-Laureate MIT) ( for details Google “Accredited Remote Learning” and “Crisis in our universities”). 4. In the interests of a safe and prosperous nation Australia should be paying students (and not vice versa) for students learning skills and how to think rationally.

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