Image Description: Reid Library as seen from the grass outside. Five red cartoon stick figures are on this grass, with one saying “Save Our Students”.
By Emma Mezger
It is safe to say UWA students have had their lives turned upside down in recent months.
Students have been the most severely impacted by COVID-19, and are facing threats to welfare, financial stability, housing, and educational quality.
These issues have been further magnified for international students, higher degree students, research students, and students with disabilities.
The Federal Government has prioritised business in its economic response plan, while students have been left behind.
Current Centrelink arrangements simply do not adequately support all students. The JobKeeper package fails to protect many casual workers, students with disabilities, temporary residents, and international students. Furthermore, due to the loss of casual work, many students also face tenancy issues, as well as difficulties paying maintenance and utility bills.
While the University has done its best to supply a quality online learning experience, it is simply not equivalent to being on-campus.
Furthermore, the University’s refusal to refund parking permits is unacceptable. Giving UWA students no choice but to pay for a service that they cannot access.
With a global recession staring us in the face, it has become devastatingly obvious how the ongoing cuts to the higher-education sector, has led to underfunded universities that are struggling to maintain bottom line.
Under the guise of efficiency, the 2017 Turnbull Government cut $2.8 billion dollars from University funding, forcing universities to rely on increasing student fees, and revenue from international students.
Unfortunately, it appears likely that universities will have to start cutting costs to stay afloat, as a result of being unable to cope with the loss of international students, and a source of ‘revenue’ they have been forced to rely on.
Both universities and students are not enthralled.
The National Union of Students (NUS) has recently launched its ‘Save our Students’ campaign, which calls for several student lifelines during this pandemic, in addition to key UWA student demands.
The key demands of this campaign, as well as the demands of UWA students, include;
1. Fee reduction — We call on the Federal Government to reduce student fees by 20% for all students.
2. Parking permit refunds — UWA students should not be footing the bill for this pandemic. It is unacceptable to take student’s money, without giving them access to the service.
3. Staff conditions — We oppose all cuts to staff, and any other indirect attack to the quality of our education.
4. International student support — Most students, including international students, have lost their jobs. However, international students receive no Government financial support.
5. Centrelink support — We should be supporting working students, and students who do not fall within the JobKeeper or JobSeeker program.
6. Housing support — Students are struggling to stay on top of their finances. Housing support is particularly necessary to assist students who have no choice but to stay in on-campus accommodation. We ask that the Government introduce protections for students on their bills.
7. Visa Extensions — As some international students are not able to finish their studies on time, due to changes that have been made, extending visas are essential. This will ensure they are able to complete their courses.
8. Fair Assessments — UWA students should not be academically penalised for the abrupt changes made to the way they learn.
So far this year we have already witnessed the power of student engagement, and how the mobilisation of students can lead to positive changes.
In March this year, the NUS helped to secure a win for income assistance to Youth Allowance, Abstudy, and Austudy. In addition to this, a six month rent freeze.
The Guild is proud to be an activist body, and work towards ensuring all students receive equitable outcomes. The importance of utilising our collective voice has never been clearer, to ensure no student is left behind.
So, how can you get involved?
Students can join our upcoming photo campaign. Simply take a photo with the #saveourstudents hashtag, and share a couple of sentences about how COVID-19 has impacted you.
Also, keep an eye out for upcoming events through the Education Action Network, such as the MP letter writing night, and digital protest!
Like the EAN Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/UWAEAN/
Image courtesy of UWA Student Guild