Regional Universities Stung by Federal Parliament - (Left and Right)

Last month the new Minister for Tertiary Education, Dr Craig Emerson, announced the federal government would be making $2.3 billion in budget savings from the higher education sector to help fund the implementation of the Gonski reforms to school education. Reform of the education sector is inevitable, although taking from one part to fund the other parts is nuts, and affects all prospective and current university students. The impacts on the future sustainability of this country from a politically economic decision will reverberate well into the future, loading the next generation up with debt. Future students will have to bear the shortsighted myopic decisions of a group of politicians that have taken advantage of the golden days of education and failed to pay forward the opportunities they were privileged to receive.

It should be remembered that when the Labor Government came to power in 2007 the ‘Education Revolution’ was a central policy platform. While there have been some modest reforms to higher education it cannot be said to be a revolution, more a jump to the right and step to the left…

The problem is how to fund the Gonski reforms and to increase funding to the higher education sector; education needs to be treated as a whole. We need to ensure the entire timeline of a students’ study life and to invest in our national future. Gonski highlighted the repeated failure of successive governments, state and federal, to invest adequately and responsibly in education. Our politicians and voters have failed this and the next generation of students, whether they are primary, secondary and tertiary. The planned tertiary education funding cuts will disadvantage low socio-economic and regional students most. Given that this university has a larger than most portion of these two groups of students, UNE can expect to be among the hardest hit of higher education providers. Students that need the most assistance will be the worst affected. Low socio-economic and regional students already face huge obstacles just to get to university and these cuts represent another hurdle.

Federal Tertiary Education Minister Craig Emerson must have come down in the last shower, if he thinks this is a good news story for tertiary education. This decision is enshrining tertiary education only for the wealthy. Our children and grandchildren will be paying for a legacy of mismanagement and failure to invest in strategic physical and social infrastructure. I will say it again, a legacy our children and grandchildren will shake their heads at and not thank us for.

The federal Opposition has declared that nobody should expect the cuts announced to be reversed. Opposition is piggy-backing on the federal government’s announcements to slash and burn crucial areas of tertiary education to fund another sector, primary and secondary education. This amounts to a federal bi-partisan decision of preferring to live for here and now and show an absolute disdain for national economic and social sustainability.

The federal government and opposition want us to believe slashing funding out of tertiary education is a good news story. While Gonski is important, Gonski alone is like owning a bike with a flat tyre and no repair kit, we are not going anywhere. So our federal members should focus on funding the whole not stealing the repair kit.

- David Mailler

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