The Baillieu government has slashed funding to Victoria’s Technical and Higher Education (TAFE) sector. The recent State budget saw around $300 million in cuts. It is estimated that more than 2000 jobs could be lost. Almost a third of these job losses are likely to be in rural areas where education is already under pressure.
For students the cuts will mean a massive hike in course fees. Up to 80% of courses could be lost on some campuses and many courses will face a rise in fees from $2,000 to $8,000 a year.
By Corey Snoek, Socialist Party
Students who have already finished a degree or diploma will no longer be subsidised to do further study. Instead many will have to pay up to $20,000 for a second degree. In times of insecure work this will make it difficult for many people to retrain in between jobs.
In many ways these cuts will help pave the way for the further privatisation and corporatisation of education. The underlying agenda of the State Government is to give preference to private education providers. Many of these private institutions run courses that charge higher fees and offer sub-standard training. Teachers are generally paid less for higher workloads.
These private education providers are run just like other businesses. Their main aim is to maximise profits and do things on the cheap wherever they can. They often hand out meaningless qualifications in impossibly short periods. One private provider was handing out diplomas after only 20 hours of tuition even though students were charged for a 400-hour course.
Many students who end up in dodgy courses like this find it impossible to find jobs afterwards as employers know that the training provided has been sub-standard.
While a number of ALP MPs have complained about the TAFE cuts it has to be remembered that the ALP were the ones who set this process in train. It was the ALP’s ‘skills reform’ program that made the push for profit-driven training companies. Baillieu has simply continued on with the policies of privatisation and the deregulation of education.
As a result since 2007 the percentage of students enrolled in government funded TAFE courses fell from 75% to 48%. Meanwhile private providers have managed to increase their share of students from 14% to 48%.
If we allow these cuts to continue it will mean the beginning of the end for publicly run Technical and Further Education. We will loose the ability to teach a new generation of young people the skills they need to find decent jobs. With that in mind we need to step up the fight against these cuts before it is too late.
Some union leaders have suggested waiting for the next State election and calling on people to vote Baillieu out. This is a dead end strategy. Not only is the election years away but the ALP adheres to the same neo-liberal policies as the Coalition.
Even if the ALP was to replace the Coalition there is no guarantee that they would reverse the cuts. If the economic situation worsens the ALP will be under the same pressures to make cuts to the budget – just as they are at a federal level. If an election strategy was to be in any way relevant a party with an economic and political alternative would need to be built by the unions.
That is one task that needs to be taken up by the trade union movement but in the meantime we need to build a united movement of students and staff that is prepared to take action against the attacks on public education.