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The Election Result: University Deep Freeze

What’s in it for us? Leanne Elliott investigates how the election results will affect universities. 

Last weekend on the 23rd of March Australia voted in state, territory and local elections and the result shows that not much will change in the Hunter Region with NSW Liberal, Gladys Berejiklian regaining power and Labor elected to represent Newcastle and the Lower Hunter again. 

Andy Marks, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Strategy Policy at Western Sydney University told ABC’s Aaron Kearny that it was “an election of very few surprises” and that the NSW Liberals will have to “spread the love further than Sydney” to ensure their continued success. But whether that love will be felt in Newcastle and the Hunter remains to be seen?

While this election may have resembled a bland tasteless porridge for most, one tiny little detail has gone largely unmentioned; namely the government’s future plans for Australian Universities.

Despite calls for the government to adopt a universal approach to tertiary and higher education and commitments from both Labor and Liberal parties regarding TAFE, there has been little talk of how either party plans to help university students or support Australian Universities. 

The Liberals have made a lot of promises to the Hunter, such as funding for roads and hospitals, but when visiting the NSW Liberals website to try and learn about the government’s future plan for universities, I returned empty-handed.

On the other hand, the Labor party did have one ‘petition’ page calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison “to stop his out of touch plan for unis (universities).” Though the page fails to elaborate on what the PM’s out of touch plans are, or more importantly, what Labor’s plans are.

While places like New Zealand make commitments ensuring university education becomes more accessible, it would seem Australian Universities continue to feel the governments deep freeze, it appears that higher education is not among their priorities. 

Are Australian Universities being taken for granted? Is the government limiting the potential of both universities and over 1 million students?

Considering universities inject billions of dollars into the economy, and as Universities Australia pointed out in 2018, they make a “big contribution to Australia’s foreign policy aims and soft power diplomacy”- you’d think the future of universities would at least be on the agenda. Right?

After all, going to university is more than ‘good times,’ for many, it is seen as an investment in their future. An economic, emotional and cultural investment which, quite frankly, looking at the current job market, is becoming less and less attractive.

Government policies can have a tremendous impact on education costs, student debts, the quality of education and facilities, accessibility, and student support. It can also have considerable repercussions in terms of the competitiveness of universities and their students in both local and international markets.

The Australian Government’s sweeping lack of commitment to invest in universities is something you should consider when you cast your vote at the next election.


Feature Image: Australian Federal Election 2016: Voting Booths via, no changes made

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