Home » Labor’s cuts threaten thousands of jobs in Australian universities

Labor’s cuts threaten thousands of jobs in Australian universities

Labor’s cuts threaten thousands of jobs in Australian universities

A meeting of Western Sydney University (WSU) staff and students last month voted to form a rank-and-file committee to oppose the job destruction and restructuring at WSU College and across the university sector. To join the committee or form one at other universities contact: cfpe.aus@gmail.com

The Australian Labor government’s deep cuts to international student enrolments, on top of Labor’s continuation of years of chronic underfunding of universities, threaten to destroy thousands of educators’ jobs.

Economic modelling commissioned by the University of Sydney estimates that the expected cut to international student numbers by 63,500 next year will create a $1.1 billion revenue black hole and cause 21,922 direct and indirect job losses in 2025.

National Tertiary Education Union members rally in Canberra on May 11, 2023 [Photo: @NTEUACT]

The government not only plans to impose punitive university-by-university caps on international student numbers from next year, it has cut student visa approvals by a third over the past year, and last week more than doubled international student visa fees from $710 to $1,600.

In the year to April 30, the number of visas approved fell to 306,000, from the 465,500 approved up to April 2023. Universities Australia, the managements’ umbrella body, said its members are already facing a $500 million shortfall in funding this year due to the visa crackdown.

Acting in bipartisan unison with the Liberal-National Coalition, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s government is making overseas students and immigrants scapegoats for the intensifying cost-of-living, housing and social crisis that is causing immense financial stress throughout the working class. It has vowed to halve immigration, including student arrivals, to 260,000 in 2024-25.

University managements are wasting no time in moving to slash jobs. So far, Federation University, a regional institution in Victoria, has said it will axe 200 staff on the way to shedding 20 percent of its employees. The University of Tasmania has instituted a jobs freeze, and both La Trobe and Wollongong universities have warned staff of looming cuts to courses, subjects and jobs.

These moves highlight how much is at stake at Western Sydney University (WSU). A rank-and-file campaign is being developed there to fight the management’s plan to restructure WSU College, the university’s wholly-owned feeder college, at the overall cost of nearly 19 educators’ and learning coordinators’ jobs, or about 10 percent of the total. If not defeated, the pro-business restructuring of WSU College will set a precedent across the tertiary education sector.

Despite objections by university managements, Labor is pushing ahead with its Education Services for Overseas Students Amendment (Quality and Integrity) Bill 2024, which would give the education minister unprecedented political powers to cap international student enrolments and scrap courses.