Santa will be delivering a lump of coal to Macquarie University this year after they announced the forcible closure of Macquarie University Postgraduate Representative Association (MUPRA) and locked elected student representatives out of their offices just five days before Christmas.
“Macquarie University has said ‘bah humbug’ to postgraduate students and their democratically elected student representative body just five days before Christmas” said Meghan Hopper, President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations.
“Making this announcement on the final business day before the Christmas closure is a deliberate ploy to attempt to avoid scrutiny from the postgraduate students, national student representatives and parliamentary representatives, like Senator Lee Rhiannon, who have vowed to support the Macquarie University Postgraduate Representative Association” Ms Hopper said.
MUPRA President, Doug Williamson said that he arrived on campus today to discover that his office had been locked by the University and that he was unable to access MUPRA files or his personal items as security staff were attending their Christmas party.
“The attempt to forcibly close MUPRA demonstrates the completion of the corporatisation of university culture at Macquarie University as they remove all forms of student representation” said Doug Williamson.
“MUPRA views Macquarie University’s actions as quite a blatant cash grab for assets that ultimately, don’t belong to the University – they belong to students, and should remain in the property of students” Mr Williamson said.
Macquarie University Deputy Vice Chancellor (Students and Registrar), Deirdre Anderson distributed a letter to students and staff today announcing that they would begin today to act toward the shutting down of MUPRA.
In her letter, she cited concerns around MUPRA’s decision to hold a recent election to elect their 2014 office-bearer team, suggesting that the University’s intention was to have MUPRA’s existing funds redirected toward postgraduate scholarships and have MUPRA operate as a “social networking organisation”.
“MUPRA’s terms of reference are to exist as an independent, democratically-elected student representative body – it is frankly bizarre to ask them to return funding they received to complete this task years ago, or to ask them to cede student representation and advocacy to a committee of students appointed by the University” Ms Hopper said.
“That MUPRA held an election for their 2014 office-bearer team shows that they are serious about continuing to provide democratic representation on campus, and that the University’s claims otherwise are nonsense.”
Ms Hopper said that the closure of student representation for postgraduates didn’t make sense as Macquarie University pushed forward toward a postgraduate-centric course offering.
“Macquarie University’s new model which blends Honours qualifications into Masters programs means that they will experience a surge in postgraduate enrolments. The closure of MUPRA would mean that these new postgraduates would not be represented – this is not something the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations intends to see happen” Ms Hopper said.
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations is investigating whether Macquarie University’s actions comply with SSAF legislation, and will arrange a peaceful protest at the campus once the University re-opens in the New Year.
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations congratulates the Labor Opposition on its decision not to back the $2.3bn cuts to the higher education sector when Parliament and the Senate vote on them over the next week.
“The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations has been strongly opposed to any cuts to higher education funding from day one, and it’s great to see the Labor Opposition join us in support of students,” said President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations, Meghan Hopper.
“Students will be relieved to know that with the help of the Labor Opposition, the Greens and Independents like Andrew Wilkie, the vote to pass the $2.3bn cuts should fail in the Senate,” Ms Hopper said.
The $2.3bn cuts to the higher education sector were originally announced by the Labor Party in Government earlier this year and were intended to help fund the Better Schools Plan, which was based on the outcomes of the Gonski Review.
“Prior to the election, CAPA expressed concerns that while the Labor Party was robbing Peter to pay Paul with their funding swap from Universities to schools, the Coalition intended to simply rob students – then run away with their money,” said Ms Hopper.
“This concern has come to bear, with the Coalition confirming that they will push ahead with $2.3 billion in cuts to higher education funding, even as they make daily changes to the way they intend to fund schools,” Ms Hopper said.
“World-class school students expect world-class universities – it makes absolutely no sense to fund one while you are gutting the other,” said Ms Hopper.
In an announcement earlier today, Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Senator Kim Carr said that Labor only supported savings in the higher education sector where they contributed to their six-year Better Schools plan.
“The savings we identified… were proposed for the very specific purpose of funding Labor’s $11.5 billion Better Schools Plan,” Senator Carr said in a statement.
“The Abbott Government has abandoned proper funding and a meaningful six year reform program,” said Senator Carr.
Meghan B. Hopper, CAPA National President