Jessica McSweeney is a Bachelor of Communication student at UTS. You can follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessicamacca
University staff and students have taken part in national protests against the Federal Government's proposed $1.2 billion in funding cuts to tertiary education.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) on Tuesday called for collective action under the banner 'pay more, get less' to protest education budget cuts.
The proposed changes will see cuts to university funding, as well as an increase in student fees and a decrease in the salary threshold for HECS repayments.
Vince Caughley, the NTEU's UTS Branch President said the cuts would have wider implications for staff and students.
"Access to higher education is really important to everyone, it’s a chance for people to improve themselves and have a better life … the government wants to take that away," Mr Caughley said.
The NTEU and various students associations have voiced concerns that cuts to universities will negatively impact the quality of education.
"The government will only exacerbate current tensions," said Vince Caughley. "Universities will say we need to employ more casual staff, increase class sizes, and possibly services to students will be cut.”
The UTS branch of the NTEU claims that 77% of UTS staff are under insecure employment.
UTS Student's Association Treasurer Lachlan Barker said that students must support staff for a quality education.
"Staff are getting cuts from their pay, we are seeing a mass casualisation of staff across the country in the education sector, and it’s unacceptable," Mr Barker said. "The most important thing for students to remember is staff working conditions are student learning conditions."
The income threshold for HECS repayments will be decreased from $52,000 to $42,000 if the government's changes are successful.
Norma Cooper, Education Vice President for the UTS Student's Association said the changes were "absolutely ridiculous".
"They are really trying to drive students into poverty, which is the exact opposite of what tertiary education is supposed to be," Ms Cooper said.
The NTEU is appealing to Senate cross-benchers to oppose the cuts as the issue is debated in this week.
“The vast majority of the teaching staff here don’t know at Christmas if they are going to have a job next year,” according UTS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences academic Amy Thomas.
“If the university doesn’t meet our demands we are ready to take action to bring this university down,” Ms Thomas said.
Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham has said that the concerns of the NTEU are unfounded.
"Despite some of the alarmist claims, official analysis shows that doomsday statements are simply empty rhetoric because efficiencies clearly exist. The facts are that real per-student funding will still be higher than previous years when all or nearly every university was running a surplus, even with significantly fewer students," Mr Birmingham said.
A report on the proposed changes is expected from the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee on Wednesday August 9.