Higher Education spokesperson Lee Rhiannon responds, in a Letter to the Editor in the Australian Financial Review, to Professor Glenn Withers’ plan for the University of NSW to follow Bond University and opt out of public funding and charge students full fees.
Professor Glenn Withers’ plan for the University of NSW to follow Bond University and opt out of public funding and charge students full fees would be a giant step towards privatisation of one of Australia’s leading public universities (“Creative solutions to funding conundrum”, AFR, May 20).
With Labor and the Coalition jointly backing $4 billion cuts to universities, over the past the pressure to find private funding sources is building. Professor Withers’ so-called “win-win plan for both equity and the economy” contains the language of fairness that old party MPs flirt with, while locking in the harsh reality of fee hikes that would push the cost burden onto students least able to afford a higher education.
The high levels of casualisation of staff already provide the conditions for universities to take on the characteristics of private companies. The loss of tenure for many staff, while managerial dominance expands, creates fertile conditions for those pushing a privatisation agenda. Professor Withers’ comments, as founding CEO of Universities Australia, would be music to the ears of those Coalition and Labor MPs who want to shrink the higher education budget. Australian universities cannot achieve and maintain world-class standards if costs are pushed onto students and staff.
Our higher education institutions need to be public through and through. Quality teaching and research depends on academia’s independence. Public investment is the foundation to achieving the free-thinking, open institutions that are critical to fostering the higher education system.
Senator Lee Rhiannon
Surry Hills, NSW