Students Protest at the National Day of Action

14 April 2016


“Bullshit! Come off it! Our education is not for profit!”

If you took a tram through the city yesterday afternoon, you might have heard these fighting words, as around 200 people marched down Swanston Street and up Elizabeth Street to protest the government’s proposed changes to the higher education funding system.

The National Day of Action, organised by the National Union of Students, came after the Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said earlier this month that the government is sticking with its plan to cut university funding and deregulate fees.

“We think these reforms will lock out poor and working-class students from university education,” Declan Murphy, an NUS spokesperson, told Farrago.

“We reject that. We think going to university is a right, not a privilege. And so that’s why we’re protesting today and that’s why we’ll continue to protest.”

An independent report by the Parliamentary Budget Office last week predicted that the Higher Education Loan Program would cost the government an annual nominal value of $11.1 billion if fee deregulation goes ahead. Compared to the $1.7 billion currently used for the loans, this figure projects a 560 per cent increase.

But supporters of fee deregulation, including Vice Chancellor Glyn Davis at the University of Melbourne, say the risk of higher debt should be weighed against the likely alternative – more cuts to per student funding.

“Graduates are the primary beneficiaries of tertiary education, and HECS ensures only those who earn a return on their degree pay back some of the cost,” he wrote last year.

“In the absence of public appetite to invest in public education, a measure of fee deregulation is the only way left to fund education quality to a reasonable standard.”

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