Friends of Victoria University released this statement on April 19.
* * *
Victoria University is planning to fundamentally change the structure of its workforce and radically alter the type of education that students receive.
Up to 115 academic staff will be sacked and replaced by 65 entry-level academic staff (Academic Teaching Scholars). These staff will have increased teaching hours and inferior retrenchment provisions so that they can be easily sacked should there be future cuts at VU.
The change involves a “spill and fill” of more than a quarter of the entire ongoing academic staff at VU.
University management has gone to the trouble of setting up an entirely new organisational entity (a first year college) to side step the VU enterprise agreement. It has spent huge amounts on legal advice to do this so it can pursue the “MacDonald’s” approach to higher education of replacing senior staff by more junior academics to cheapen the cost of education.
In fact, the approach may entail the future privatisation and contracting out of all first year education at VU.
The whole strategy has been based on cheapening “teaching costs” by employing less qualified staff and the assumption that students need more teaching and contact hours. However, many of VU's low income students already work very long hours in outside jobs to support their studies and families. Additional teaching hours are likely to put a strain on them and their capacity to complete their education.
A student-centred approach to education should cater for all the different students at VU: working students, students who would prefer to do more online studies and aspirational students who want to enrol in units of their choice rather than being forced to undertake an undifferentiated common first year of study program.
Less qualified staff also means a reduction in the quality of education and less expert help in first year when students are beginning to develop their study skills. Much of the community research that VU has undertaken in the past to support the West is also likely to suffer with the departure of more senior staff.
Clearly, what is being discussed is what sort of university VU will be and whether it will continue to be a university in the future. Friends of VU want to keep the U in VU.
[Friends of VU is holding a public meeting at 6pm on Thursday April 27 at the Bluestone Church, 8A Hyde Street, Footscray (next to the Maribyrnong Town Hall).]