YOUTH VOICE: Time for University Students to Make a Stand

Posted on January 6, 2011 by


BY MARTIN DICKENS.

 

 

Since the rise of the former Hawke Labor Government, Australian university students have been targeted in efforts to increase incoming revenue for tertiary institutions. The root cause of this financial pressure on students can be linked to rationalisation efforts pursued by the Commonwealth Government through the Dawkins Reforms of the late 1980’s, those requiring students to privately contribute to their tertiary education (Dawkins and Williams 2006, p. 205). However, a crucial question is to what limit will students be able to cope with the working demands that are expected of them in the twenty-first century?

 

In recent news headlines, Australians have been confronted with violent images of protests in Britain where university students have opposed recent university fee increases by the conservative Government. These protests, from the perspective of a current university student, are entirely justified following recent results released by an Ipsos Mori Survey conducted in June 2010. From the 2700 secondary students surveyed, only 45% of these students responded that they would be willing to pursue tertiary education if fees rose more than five thousand pounds (Russell 2010, p. 12). For Australia, these protests demonstrate not only a devaluation of university education by the British Government but also may influence fee changes domestically.

 

Despite the hardships confronted by British and Australian students in gaining a tertiary qualification, nothing quite compares to the exploitation of young Chinese female students who must market themselves for marriage to gain an education. A recent article published by The Australian (24 December 2010) featured profiles of young college women on the dating website Jiayuan. One particular female Zhang Yan confessed her willingness to marry any man in exchange for a payment of 200,000 Yuan. The article states that it is a social norm for women ‘…to provide sex in return for jobs and homes in a competitive workplace after graduation’.  The broader question here relates to the monetary value of education in contemporary times.

 

Former US President John F. Kennedy once stated, ‘Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education’. As citizens and students of a wider international community, it is our responsibility not to allow short-sighted economic rationalism to tarnish the important role which education plays in improving welfare and social conditions. Too often has the tertiary system fallen prey to neoliberal economic philosophies that have gutted public services in Western countries. However, if we are to succeed in meeting the demands of global workplaces and improving the status of humanity, Australia, as well as those discussed above, cannot withdraw funding nor deny citizens the opportunity to gain university education.

 

In summary, I call on university students to make a stand for the future of education and our world. Education should not be used as an avenue for profiteering. It should be treasured and viewed as a most valuable asset.

 

 

References:

 

Dawkins, P and Williams, R 2006, ‘Towards a Level Playing Field for Australian Universities and Students’, Economic Papers, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 205-220.

 

Russell, V 2010, ‘Higher Tuition Fees ‘Will Deter Students’’, Public Finance, June 25 – July 1, p. 12.

 

The Australian 24 December 2010, ‘College Girls Woo Sugar Daddies’, p. 14.

 

 

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Martin Dickens is a first year Bachelor of Arts student at La Trobe University’s Albury-Wodonga Campus. Having lived in the local region all of his life, Martin is thoroughly interested in Australian Politics and is a member of the Young Liberal Movement. He was formerly the 2009 College Captain of Trinity Anglican College Albury and has been involved in numerous community activities, as well as acting as a United Nations Youth Delegate for Regional Youth Summits.

 

The views in this story are those of the author and not necessarily those of Our Voice: Politics Albury-Wodonga.

 

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