A protest against staff cuts proposed by Curtin University led by the Student Guild and National Tertiary Education Union made its way across the Bentley campus today.
Chris Hall, vice president of Curtin Student Guild, says this is the second action held on the campus concerning the proposal.
“$41 million dollars in cuts, and the finance committee has decided that has to come from the learning and teaching revenue,” he says.
“They have offered up a voluntary redundancy scheme, trying to achieve 230 staff members to put themselves forward as redundant.”
Protest in action. Photos: Lauren Smith.
Chris Hall says this will have a ripple effect throughout the university on both students and staff as the head of the institution hasn’t prioritised learning and teaching.
“For students this means that their first point of contact for their learning and teaching is gone, it means that other academics are going to be more stressed, and their response times, feedback and exam results are going to come out later,” he says.
Scott Fitzgerald, vice president of the local NTEU, says there is real concern and recent years have already seen redundancies take place.
“University management have said employment costs at Curtin are too high and have been too high for a period of time. Over the last five years we have lost about 200 staff,” he says.
“There has already been a pre-existing issue, an existing desire to reduce staff numbers it appears or at least reduce staff costs. The pandemic has perhaps sped that up or provided the pretext to expend large job cuts at Curtin.”
He says the real concern is the universities approach to student learning.
“What the university management deemed as a budgetary issue will undermine the quality of education and services that students are provided,” Mr Fitzgerald says.
“Many of the staff on casual contracts have seen their positions go, or their hours drastically reduced.”
Dr Madison Magladry, a sessional academic at Curtin, says the university is in a relatively stable financial position, especially compared to other universities.
“Student and staff action against what the university management choses to do is the strongest defence,” she says.
A spokesperson for the university says Curtin is dealing with the financial consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which will continue to impact revenue beyond this year.
In a statement to Western Independent the university says it is consulting with staff and evaluating feedback before making any decisions, including on the impact to courses and individual units.
“As always, the quality of the learning experiences remains a key priority for Curtin and we will be doing everything we can to ensure that any changes have a minimal effect on studies.
“Curtin respects the right for staff and students to hold and express divergent views on the problems we are facing and continues to be grateful for their resilience and steadfast contributions during these challenging times,” the spokesperson says.
Chris Hall says Curtin is known for producing strong, passionate, technical undergraduates, but it is slowly getting further away from that.