The Jobs-Ready Graduates legislation passed through the Federal Senate today, bringing with it overall cuts of $1 billion, or 17 per cent, of federal funding to universities.
The law, which includes significant changes to the funding of certain university courses, passed with the help of South Australia’s Centre Alliance Party.
Coming into effect in 2021, the law will drive down the cost of studying nursing, agriculture, teaching, IT, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.
However, the cost of some humanities and communications courses will rise by up to 113 per cent, while law and commerce degrees will increase by 28 per cent.
Opposition to the legislation has flagged the effect the legislation will have on poorer students.
Senior lecturer at Curtin University Thor Kerr says the lack of federal support for universities undermines the whole higher education system.
He says rather than aiding universities, the government’s new reforms will indirectly make humanities students subsidise the entire university sector.
“Most of the money that humanities students pay will not stay in their schools, but it will be taken out and used in management and other areas of the university,” Dr Kerr says.
“At Curtin today, only about 47 cents out of every dollar that a humanities student pays will stay within that school for teaching and resources.”
National Union of Students director Molly Willmott says the new law is “an insidious looking bill that’s been given a nice name”.
Ms Willmott says the new law further exacerbates the funding issues universities are experiencing.
“Not only are universities losing important revenue from international students [due to COVID-19], they are continually funnelling money into the drain by spending larger amounts of funding on administration,” she says.
Students and teachers protested against proposed staff cuts at Curtin University today.
Organisers of the protest – the Student Guild and the National Tertiary Education Union – reassured the gathered crowd their humanities degrees were valid areas of study, and said sessional and permanent teaching staff of the university will be part of the hundreds of jobs lost to ‘voluntary redundancy’.
Cries of “fight back against these bastards!” was met with the cheering of demonstrators.
Protesters. Photos: Ashleigh Davis.