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Students Fight Staff Cuts!

AMY LAMONT & JAMIE TYERS | NEWS


As Vice Chancellor Bruce Dowton continues to push for a university system driven by money rather than quality education, MQ Students Against the Cuts continue to fight the battle.


Once more, the Macquarie University management are on a warpath against our education. A human number has been put to the previously announced $25 million academic staff cuts: 82 staff will be sacked all for the profits of this university!


For the staff who will be sacked, this means that their livelihoods will completely disappear, in the middle of both a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic and what is predicted to be the largest economic recession in decades.


This means that the workload for the staff remaining at the university will be massively increased. Macquarie University already has one of the worst staff to student ratios in the country, at 1 staff member to 68.9 students, and these cuts will only intensify this pressure! (Just compare this to the average Group of Eight university, whose staff only manage around 22 students each).


An example of this increased workload is the change in time allocated to marking assignments; it has been halved so will now sit at a dismal 30 minutes per student. To mark an assignment in this amount of time is an impossible task, and will undoubtedly lead to hundreds of hours of unpaid overtime for staff to properly mark students' work.


Macquarie University already has some of the lowest standards of education in the country, and these staff cuts will only worsen that fact. As the classic student activist slogan goes; “staff working conditions are student learning conditions.” An understaffed and overworked university will mean more reused course material from prior years, more classes being pushed online, more ballooning class sizes and even longer wait times to receive results.


University management say that they are forced to make these cuts. The budget loss since COVID-19 stopped them charging international students enormous amounts of money for a subpar education has been (supposedly) too hard on their wallets!


But the ‘crying poor’ of management falls flat when we take a brief look at Macquarie’s recent history of neoliberal reforms. In late 2019, Macquarie came after Human Sciences, successfully dissolving the entire department and causing many staff redundancies. In early 2020, the MQ2020 plan pushed through major cuts to the Arts department that resulted in the slashing of tutorials and drastically increased class sizes while at the same time cutting down on staff.


Austerity is the Macquarie University model. It is not something that COVID-19 has unwillingly forced upon university management. Their response since the beginning of the pandemic is to take advantage of the circumstances to do what they have wanted to do for years: to get away with restructuring Macquarie further and further into a degree factory run for the profits of the university bosses, rather than a place of education.


This is why we have seen in the last year the sacking of 300 staff through voluntary redundancy schemes; why they’ve completely gotten rid of 16% of BA degrees and 22% of Masters degrees; why they’ve slashed 48 courses and 203 course components, rather than dipping into their $3.557 billion in assets or even their $183 million in cash reserve.


These attacks on education are not just limited to Macquarie University. The university bosses association have announced that 1 in 10 staff members are projected to lose their jobs right across the sector, as bosses everywhere scramble to push the cost of the pandemic onto the livelihoods of university staff.


But we’ve also seen student activists fighting back right across the country. Here in Sydney, a wave of student protests at USYD braved police repression and violence to stand up against the attacks from the Liberal Government and university management. These protests, as well as the courageous acts of LGBTI+ protesters at the end of 2020, won back the democratic right to protest in New South Wales.


MQ Students Against Uni Cuts are fighting back against the neoliberal logic of our university. We demand the immediate reversal of the cuts at Macquarie – sacking staff, destroying our standard of education and staff working conditions are never a justifiable action.


Management wants nothing more than for students to keep our heads down and accept austerity, which is why we have to do the opposite! Join Macquarie Students Against Uni Cuts to join the campaign to defend our education on campus!


We are fighting to rebuild a sense of confidence and resistance on campus, so that next time management tries to attack our education for the sake of their bottom line we’re on the best possible footing to push back against them. That's why in 2020 we organised a 300 person strong protest and marched straight to the millionaire Vice Chancellor’s office to demonstrate that staff and students refuse to let our education be discarded.


But we are not just fighting to reverse this round of cuts, we are fighting for a radical transformation of the education system at Macquarie. Education should be a right, not a privilege for the wealthy or simply to upskill the Australian workforce. Students should be able to study what they want, and get a high quality education doing it.


It is only through protesting and actions like these that students can save the education at Macquarie University! Join the protest and find out more information on our Facebook page: Macquarie Students Against Uni Cuts.


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