In June, the Education Minister, Dan Tehan, announced disastrous university defunding measures. I’m writing to invite you to play a role in defeating them by taking part in an online national assembly of university staff from 2-3.30 pm on August 24, the day federal parliament resumes. The assembly will vote on a motion opposing the government’s proposed reforms, and call for the properly supported, equitable tertiary education system that society so badly needs.
We are at a critical turning-point in Australian higher education. If the reforms pass parliament, government funding will, for the first time since fees were introduced, cover only a minority of university teaching costs. This will intensify austerity measures even further in a sector already brought to its knees by the coronavirus pandemic. The consequences will be the most severe for younger, casualised and precarious staff, for women, and for indigenous colleagues.
The assembly on August 4 is the initiative of a new national collective of university staff, the ‘National Higher Education Action Network’ (NHEAN), which intends to campaign alongside existing unions and other groups in the sector for democratic, public, and well-funded universities. The long-term neglect of universities as well as their current crisis mean that we need more voices defending them, not fewer.
The assembly is motivated by the belief that, at this crucial juncture, university staff should make their collective voice heard. A motion of opposition at a national assembly, voted on by the very people who make higher education work, will be a powerful statement that the Education Minister does not enjoy the confidence of the sector, and will provide support to opponents of the Bill in and outside Parliament.
As well as debating and voting on the motion, the meeting will hear a proposal from the National Higher Education Action Network for a careful, strategic and democratically organised sequence of actions that tertiary education staff can take over the longer term, in conjunction with students and the broader public, to campaign for federal support for universities commensurate with their vital contribution to society.
Please join us on August 24 from 2 to 3.30 pm by RSVPing here. At the same link, you can read more details about the assembly, and read suggestions about how you can become involved in organising for it. A Zoom link for the meeting will be sent to you after registering.
With thanks in advance for your support