No Fees for Degrees!

Image : Noosa News

No Fees for Degrees!

26-06-2020: Not content with running Universities into the ground through decades of funding cuts, the Federal Government is now blatantly embarking on another multi-pronged attack on the higher education sector. In a speech to the National Press Club, Liberal National Party (LNP) Minister for Education Dan Tehan announced massive fee hikes for Arts, Law and Commerce degrees alongside large fee reductions for degrees in Maths and Agriculture (by 62%). Teaching, nursing, clinical psychology, English and languages fees will drop by 46%. In an obviously targeted blast, tuition fees for Humanities degrees will more than double (by 113%). Fees for Law and Commerce degrees will increase by 28%, while fees for medical, dentistry and veterinary science will not change. Science, health, architecture, environmental science, IT and Engineering degrees will cost 20% less than what they were previously.[1]

Falling behind Red China

Some have commented that conservative governments routinely denigrate faculties such as the Humanities as “useless”, and favour University studies for “real” work like Engineering, and this latest move is a continuation of that trend. Though there is much in this critique that is true, it is also the case that the booming socialist economy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)– despite being saddled with a conservative and nationalist political leadership – is leaving the flailing economies of the capitalist West in the dust. This is particularly apparent in the stupendous advances in science and technology that the PRC is demonstrating on a regular basis. For example, no country has been able to attempt, let alone effect, a soft landing on the dark side of the moon – apart from the PRC. In early January 2019 the China National Space Administration (CNSA) successfully landed the lunar rover Chang’e-4 on the far side of the moon,[2] where the USA and the USSR never managed to tread. The PRC is now a scientific power, accompanying its rise as an economic and, therefore, political power.

The PRC aims to become a global innovator by 2050, and its largely collectivised and planned economy enables billions of yuan (China’s currency) to be fed into state backed science and technology research and development. The results are plain to see. It is estimated that by 2017, some 8 million students had graduated from Chinese universities, which was a ten-fold increase over the previous 20-year period, and doubled the number graduating from US universities. China’s share of global scientific papers virtually tripled from 6.4% in 2003 to 18.2% in 2013 – second only to the US at 18.8%.[3]  A glance at such stats reveals some of the real basis for Western anti-China hysteria.

Australia’s lack of student performance in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) is largely a result of the dire lack of tertiary education funding, for which both Labor and Liberal governments have been to blame. This crisis has alarmed sections of the Australian ruling class itself, as it was glaring. As far back as 2015, the Australian Industry Group explicitly called for the implementation of strategies to increase the number of undergraduates in the STEM disciplines.[4]

Coronavirus used as a false pretext

Covid-19 manufactured hysteria is clearly being used as a cover for the most severe attack on working class people since the Great Depression of the 1930s.[5] Inhumane and life-taking lockdowns, economic shutdowns, and wave after wave of job cuts have been blamed on a “virus”. It is nothing of the sort. Covid-19 is, at worst, a mild illness which may possibly contribute to a slightly increased danger for those with very advanced age and/or chronic adverse health conditions. In reality, the ruling elites of the West have been gunning for imperialist war against China, Russia, Iran and others for at least ten years. Having been blocked in this quest by Russia, Syria, Iran and the DPRK, the billionaire class used the opportunity of a coronavirus to instead wage war against “their own” workers. The current assault by Canberra on the right of working people to tertiary education should be seen in this context.

This is the main reason why all those who stand in opposition to the latest funding cuts to higher education must at the same time shed any allegiance to the fake “pandemic” narrative. The very same politicians that are now ripping more taxpayer dollars from Universities are the very same ones which have enacted a totalitarian nightmare against the masses from one end of the country to another. These very same politicians who are now attempting to discourage students from studying the Humanities are the very same ones who have effectively abolished freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of association and freedom of movement under the truthless slogan of “staying safe”. Infatuated with the amount of power handed to them, these politicians have attempted to enforce blind and unthinking submission to authority on a disoriented populace.

Without exception, and without asking, the corporate politicians have received willing assistance in the waging of a vicious attack on working people by treacherous Union officials and the clueless parties of the “lockdown left”. Abandoning even a display of token defiance to the capitalism they claim to oppose, these charlatans have been the most enthusiastic enforcers of the absurd and logic-defying Covid-19 rules such as isolation of the healthy and “social-distancing”. That is, they did not hesitate to act as state troopers against workers who so much as questioned the coronavirus fairytales.

Education is a right which must be fought for. It must be free, from kindergarten to the most advanced University tuition. Students should not be burdened with onerous debts while the 600 largest corporations in Australia pay little or no tax. If capitalism in the 21st century cannot provide free education, then let it perish. What is required is a working-class fightback against every manifestation of the onslaught waged under the cover of a pathogen, from lockdowns to job cuts, to university fee hikes, to imperialist war. Socialism offers the only salvation from a world in crisis, but it must be built by workers who are free from those who would force them to wear face masks – the mark of a slave.                         NO FEES FOR DEGREES!   FOR FREE EDUCATION!

 

WORKERS  LEAGUE

www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

PO  Box  66   NUNDAH   QLD  4012

[1] https://au.news.yahoo.com/uni-degree-fees-shakeup-012452222.html (24-06-2020)

[2] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2019/01/china-change-4-historic-landing-moon-far-side-explained/ (24-06-2020)

[3] https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0195347 (24-06-2020)

[4] (Australian Industry Group – Progressing STEM Skills in Australia (2015))

[5] https://redfireonline.com/2020/04/18/covid-19-savage-assault-under-the-guise-of-health/ (25-06-2020)

 

Demand Free Education – Just like in the DPRK!

24-08-2016 – The figures are staggering. $20 billion of government funding cut from the University sector, a drift towards total deregulation of fees, $100 000 degrees, and the privatisation of higher education. Combine this with a further slated 20% cut in funding, and a 100% increase in class sizes over the last generation,[1] and the labelling of tertiary education as being “Americanised” is no exaggeration. Along with the daylight robbery type fees, crowded lectures, more online courses and less contact with tutors have become the norm. Higher Education in Australia is becoming, or has become, unaffordable for all but the most privileged.

The quality of the education provided at Universities today and the fees charged proceed in inverse proportions. The worse the quality, the more fees are charged. University staff also suffer – there has been a raft of job cuts at Universities around the country, and many tutors who have some employment are only taken on for short-term contracts. Casualisation is rife, with tutors sometimes only paid for the actual student contact hours. In contrast, the remuneration for University Vice-Chancellors continues to be obscene. Figures for VC salaries from 2015 reveal that the lowest VC salary was $540,000, while seven VCs pulled a salary of over 1 million per year.[2] Universities have become commercialised degree factories, whose graduates are endorsed for uncritically accepting the privatisation of virtually everything.

The rapidly approaching full deregulation of fees will adversely affect international as well as domestic student. A HSBC report found that despite Australia having the highest education costs of any country in the world,[3] international students make up 20% of tertiary student body. These students are treated by University administrations as little more than cash cows, who are charged higher fees than domestic students. These international students have to work to pay the tuition fees in addition to their living expenses, while somehow studying full time. This leads many international students to undertake any available work, often ending up being illegally underpaid by notorious outfits such as the 7 Eleven convenience stores.

While the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has done some positive work to oppose the further drift to full fee deregulation, and to highlight the dangers of $100 000 degrees, it still ultimately retains an electoralist and parliamentarist strategy to address the almost terminal state of accessible higher education. In amongst encouragement to attend rallies, the NTEU officials talk about “helping out at election time” , “writing a letter to your MP”, and “ensuring that the government not abrogate its role in providing [higher education]”. The left party Socialist Alternative (SAlt), the largest left group organising on University campuses, also ultimately plays into a perspective of “pressuring” parliament and parliamentary parties, despite its laudable organisational role. SAlt correctly recognise that both Liberal and Labor parties back the effective privatisation of higher education, but often tailor their calls to target Liberal party ministers, which opens the door for work on the ground with Labor and Greens aligned students.

To be clear, the ongoing attacks on higher education in this country are not a result of the ideas or ideology of the major political parties, nor are they the result of the ideology of “neoliberalism”. Higher education is being privatised due to the economic crisis engulfing the capitalist world economies, mired in effective recession since 2008. In this country, the privatisation of higher education began in 1989 under the Labor Party, but has continued ever since, regardless of whether there has been a Liberal/National, Labor or Labor/Greens coalition. All of these parties are committed to maintaining the capitalist system at the expense of the suffering of working people. All “liberal democratic” governments in this country are thus in practice arms of a dictatorship of the owners of the means of production. This is why they no longer see it (if they ever did) as “their role” to provide accessible higher education, as the NTEU leadership implores.

It is only a socialist government which genuinely sees its role as providing education for all working people. It is in the material interests of a socialist government to ensure all its citizens have access to all forms of education to establish an educated workforce, but also to ensure the scientific and cultural progress of that society. There is a socialist state in the Asia-Pacific region which does provide all its citizens with free education – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK – referred to by the corporate media as “North Korea”). The DPRK has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which is only 1.3% the size of Australia’s GDP[4], yet it is able to provide education at all levels, including 12 years of schooling, and between 3 and 5 years of University education at no cost to DPRK citizens. What is more, all University graduates are guaranteed employment, as the concept of unemployment is unknown in the DPRK.

It is a far cry from what young working people in Australia face – crippling or unaffordable tuition fees, and a high likelihood of unemployment upon graduation. The contrast between capitalism and socialism could not be more stark. While we face the barrier of wholesale deregulation, however, the same methods used to secure a socialist state – class struggle – is ultimately the only way of obtaining a decent and accessible education system now. Students, as an intermediate body between school and the workforce, do not have the social power to bring the system to a halt. Only the working class, particularly on campus, but also in the public service and workplaces across the country, has the potential to ramp up the class struggle, through mass actions up to and including the withdrawal of labour.

The main obstacle to the linking of the student’s struggle for free education with workers’ power is primarily the influence of the top officials presiding over most Unions, who see their role as channelling any just demands into the capitalist state via pleading with “our” politicians. These politicians are not “ours” no matter how much snake oil they sell. Students and workers need to rely on their own strength, independently of the parliamentary system, to forge a mass movement which has the power to win. This will also require the formation of a workers’ party, which can champion the struggle for both free education and socialism.

DEMAND FREE EDUCATION!

Workers League

PO Box 66 Nundah QLD 4012

www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

[1] http://no100kdegrees.org.au/#!portfolio-item/100k-degrees/ (06-08-16)

[2] https://the-scan.com/2015/06/10/vice-chancellors-salary-packages-on-the-rise/ (07-08-16)

[3] http://www.about.hsbc.com.au/news-and-media/australia-the-most-expensive-country-for-education-hsbc-report (10-08-16)

[4] http://www.tradingeconomics.com/north-korea/gdp (10-08-16)