- The Guardian
- Issue #1989
Australian students are yet again hit by repressive policies from the Coalition government. Last year, we saw the Morrison government hike up student fees for the Arts and Humanities (Guardian – Workers’ Weekly, “Editorial: Arts and humanities suffer under new government plan,” #1921), and this year we have seen the government neglect accessibility to TAFE (Guardian – Workers’ Weekly, “Ever increasing precarity for public education amidst TAFE funding cuts and privatisation,” #1949), now we are seeing a further attack on the accessibility to university.
Starting next year students will be given no more than seven years to complete an undergraduate degree under legislation known as the Student Learning Entitlement (SLE). If this SLE sounds familiar it’s because this is not the first time its been around.
The SLE was introduced in 2005, under the Howard government, but abolished under the Gillard government in 2012. It has now returned from the dead, thanks to senator Pauline Hanson as an amendment to last year’s Job Ready Graduates legislation after negotiations she had with the Morrison government.
So why has the SLE been brought back? According to Andrew Norton, a higher education policy expert from Australian National University, its meant to stop “the perpetual student who just does degree after degree,” however, Norton’s own data suggests that “there are very few of those people.”
How few of those people are “perpetual students”? Norton notes that “only 0.2 per cent of students use eight years or more to complete their degree and 0.7 per cent had taken seven years. And probably most of those would be exceptional cases. And some of those probably would be exceptional cases like those studying medicine.”
Thus, this attack on students is just that. It is an attack on learning, on giving young people the tools to analyse the world critically. As Fidel Castro once stated: “you’ll see everyone in our country with a book under their arm because we all want to study, learn, and correctly interpret the world in which we live. We never tell anyone to believe; we tell everyone to think, study, and decide.” When we take way a person’s right to learn, we rob them of the ability to understand and appreciate the world more fully.
The government’s attempt to absolve itself from its responsibility to younger generations to provide it with a basic human right is shocking but not surprising. We must continue to fight back against these attacks. The CPA is attempting to register its electoral expression, The Communists, to stop such austerity measures. Sign up at: cpaforms.wufoo.com/forms/join-the-communists/ to register and get a voice in parliament that supports policies for everyone, not just the ruling class!