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‘Our Education is Not For Profit’: UNSW protesters rally against ADA course cuts

Student activists at UNSW protested against the latest education attacks in the Arts, Design & Architecture (ADA) with faculty calling on management to reverse job and course cuts this afternoon.

Students gathered outside of UNSW Library this afternoon to protest against the latest planned restructures to the Art, Design and Architecture (ADA) Faculty, which will see 13 bachelors programs merged into 5 degrees. 

Organised by the UNSW Education (Ed) Collective, the rally demanded an end to ADA degree mergers, cuts and a reversal of the attacks on staff jobs and student learning conditions that have arisen over the last 12 months. Former UNSW Environment Officer Anna Ho and Ed Collective Member Ruby Pandolfi co-chaired the rally. 

Ed Collective Member Brendan Tate criticised the restructures, arguing that this was the latest infraction by management in their mission to boost the university’s bottom-line and increase profits by attacking staff and students. 

“There were 600 courses cut last year and 700 jobs lost. That means my degree is completely understaffed,” Tate said. 

Following one of the country’s harshest austerity measures, UNSW’s student-to-staff ratio now sits at 21 students per teaching staff, according to their 2021 Annual Report.  

Tate spoke about the $305 million surplus that UNSW had made last year and described the dire situation of course restructuring which left many students “having to finish their degrees at USyd because they can’t do it here at UNSW.” 

Julian Wood, a casual tutor at UNSW and USyd, spoke to his experience of increasing corporatisation across both universities, arguing that staff and students share a common cause of pursuing an open, democratic and well functioning university, not profits.

“Your university conditions are going down and down – that’s also true of the staff. Over 50 per cent of undergraduate teaching is done by casual staff who have no job security,” Wood said.

Anna Ho spoke about the mistreatment of staff at UNSW where academics were told that their courses were being merged which would lead to voluntary redundancy schemes. She urged UNSW students to support industrial action taken by staff on campus, declaring that “staff need to be militant and vocal against compromises from management”. 

National Union of Students (NUS) Education Officer Luc Velez spoke about the proposal to reduce the number of credits required for a major, stating that the move is a cover up for further course cuts. While the decision has been framed as an opportunity for students to undertake three majors, Velez criticised it as an opportunity to justify further cuts as faculties are not required to run as many courses for degree completion.

“We deserve a better university, we deserve a university with better decision making power, we deserve a university where course cuts aren’t forced onto us and we deserve a university where staff and students have security and can work collaboratively,” Velez said.

USyd Education Officer Deaglan Godwin spoke about the increasingly profit-driven university sector, noting that when profits are put first, students are put last.

Godwin referenced the last pickets at USyd and praised the momentum from the industrial action that had a flow-on effect into other campuses, including UTS and Western Sydney University (WSU), who went on a half-day strike yesterday. 

“I think it’s so important that we don’t see each issue as campus-by-campus issues, but for us students to come together and fight wherever there are cuts, wherever there are attacks,” Godwin said. 

He rejected the University’s move to use student and staff consultation as a bargaining chip, arguing that consultation was only about “wearing us down so we feel like we can’t fight, so we feel like we’re up against the constant edge of the corporate machine.” 

The news of the restructure was leaked by a Tharunka student journalist who attended a private student consultation where a select few were chosen by management to speak about course changes. 

An email from Dean of ADA Claire Annesley was sent out to students last week, justifying the proposed cuts to the degrees under the line of “improving the student experience”. 

These cuts follow a report by the Department of Education into NSW university job losses from 2020-21, which found that UNSW recorded the highest number of staff cuts in the country. UNSW saw 726 fewer full-time equivalent jobs in 2021 than the year prior, amounting to a 10 per cent drop in employees. 

Protesters marched from UNSW library to the Chancellery, chanting “No cuts. No fees. No corporate universities!” 

The petition to stop UNSW restructures can be found here

Follow the NO ADA CUTS: Stop UNSW Restructures campaign here.