Below is a petition about the effect of funding cuts and fee deregulation on UWS. To sign this petition click here

Vote against deregulation of fees and funding cuts to universities

Dear Western Sydney MPs

We write to express our deep concern regarding the possible damaging long-term effects for the people of Western Sydney of proposed deregulation of fees and cuts announced in the federal budget. We acknowledge that when scrutinising the national accounts, balancing priorities and reducing wasteful spending all can expect their share of the burden. However, it is clear that the proposed measures do not really concern tightening expenditure. Most commentators agree that this will fundamentally reshape higher education, and in a way that will likely put a good university education out of reach for many of the people of Greater Western Sydney.

As staff at the University of Western Sydney, our mission is to deliver an education of the highest standard to the people of Western Sydney. Since becoming a university twenty-five years ago, we have applied ourselves tirelessly to this task and our ever-improving research performance has us regularly in the top third of Australian universities. This prestige and knowledge is then passed onto our students, almost all of whom come from the area. We know all about the challenges of delivering a quality education to students who are less well-off, who are frequently the first in their family to go to university and for whom English is often a second language. As we give these students a leg up we open the doors to the knowledge professions, which in turn vitalises our region’s economy and culture.

This is imperilled by the proposed reforms in a number of ways.

In order to maintain current revenue, universities will have no choice but to increase fees by at least 50% and it is expected that most will increase fees by between 100% and 200%, or more. While the income contingent HELP loans will continue, these will now accrue real interest from the moment students are granted the loan, meaning that students will approach a university education as a serious financial risk, akin to a second mortgage. Debt will keep piling up even if they are not earning enough to repay it, which discourages aspiration. Many of our students already have families to support, and such levels of debt will represent an unmanageable burden. We might look to the US, where student loan debt exceeds one trillion dollars, more than both credit-card debt and auto-loan debt. Only mortgage debt remains higher. This debt crisis has transpired even though American students are still eligible to take out loans that do not accrue interest while they are enrolled in a degree program.

Many of our students come from families with no previous tertiary background and are usually unfamiliar with the nature of university education. It would be folly to regard them as fully informed consumers who can properly assess the risk. Many will opt for alternative sub-university providers who promise cheap qualifications but without the intellectual rigour and cultural capital that comes with the university environment. In the UK, recent partial deregulation of fees has led to flagrant abuses by private providers, who boost their income enrolling students on public loans regardless of their preparedness. This, in turn, has led to budget blow outs in and expensive investigations by the National Audit Office. In the US, the University of Phoenix was fined ten million dollars for similar practices. It is not encouraging that the budget proposes reducing the funding for the standards regulator TEQSA by half. When students do not complete, they are hardly more employable and so frequently do not earn enough to reach the threshold of repayment, which means the state has squandered tax payers’ money.

Introducing pricing signals will immediately favour the more established and elite institutions and they are expected rapidly to increase their fees. This will by no means ensure that their students receive a better education. More likely, increased fees will go towards cross-subsidising research to boost international rankings. We at UWS will continue to strive to provide an excellent education; but we enter the market as a relatively new institution. With the system no longer geared to promoting high-performing research across all institutions, some of our best researchers may be drawn to the expanding elite. The great gains from public investment in UWS by successive governments risks being squandered as we are forced to compete on price with bottom-end private institutions that have no pretence to provide a true university education.

The government has sought to mitigate the inequitable effects of its policies by directing a percentage of fee increases to bursaries or waivers for students from low socio-economic backgrounds. It has been pointed out that there are a number of implementation issues, including the varieties of income in any given area and the vagaries of designating income for tax purposes. In all likelihood this will necessitate an expensive and intrusive system of case-by-case means testing: money for more bureaucracy rather than laboratories and classrooms. It is a convoluted and expensive way of ensuring access to higher education, when such funds could simply continue to support and build those universities which are already directly within reach of those in need.

Whichever party you belong to, and whatever your economic principles, we implore you to scrutinise the policy from the perspective of those you represent and ensure the people of Western Sydney do not get left behind. As professional teachers and researchers, we are committed to working hard for our students and the people of Western Sydney, and will do so within whatever framework emerges. However, we believe our collective interest as Westies can only be served by voting against the proposals.

Yours sincerely,

Click HERE to sign




From Ben Etherington in the Sydney Review of Books on the Pyne/Abbott agenda and James Allan in Quadrant on the dysfunction in Australian Universities.



Well we’ve been a bit quiet just lately but couldn’t resist the temptation to relay the latest communication from hydraulic clive smallperson, dean of the looneyversity’s school of bizniz. Dean Clive has always been generous in sharing his thoughts and insights with his staff.  In this week’s school newsletter he was good enough to provide a book review:

I’m presently reading the refreshingly candid The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton. The title may be confronting, but what a great book, and its [sic] sold over 500,000 copies! The by-line on the front cover from the Guardian reads ‘Entertaining and important … this book is a blow for humanity as well as management.’ This [sic] all about those people who vilify or humiliate others or who abuse positional power. Its [sic] about how to spot them and how to manage them. Workplace civility is its message. Its [sic] an entertaining and yet very serious book. I encourage you to have a glance.

Have a great weekend.


So there you go. From now on there will be no assholes in the School of Bizniz, indeed assholes are now persona non grata throughout the looneyversity. Hope that sets your mind at rest.

Report from The Guardian. Couldn’t happen here, could it?


The entire Looneyversity ‘family’  gathered last week at the venerable Homestead Campus for the grand anniversary celebrations. Big Chief Barnyard G’Lover, the new king of the farmyard was first to speak and declared the festivities open. Welcoming the assembled luminaries, he apologised for the absence of Deputy Rozzer Hawkeye, announcing ‘I’ve sent her  overseas and she is very sorry to miss this event. She’s off on important university business to Outer Mongolia and should be boarding a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 right about now ‘. Fresh from his own charm offensive across his entire kingdom Chief G’Lover was in fine form, spinning yarns and jesting with the crowd. Soon the looneyversity’s official historian rose to give his prepared speech: ‘In its twenty four year history…’, he began.

But what’s this? A murmur went through the crowd. What sort of historian would make such a mistake. Chief Barnyard look confused and pulled the young man aside. ‘What’s up with you man? If you add 25 to 1989 you get 2014′. But the historian was adamant: the looneyversity was definitely one year short of the quarter century. Barnyard began to doubt his own sanity and arithmetic skills. Had somebody miscounted the beans? It couldn’t be. The looneyversity beancounters are famed for their accuracy.

Rozzer would know. A quick call was put through to her, as she kicked back in the first class lounge at the new Badgery’s Creek airstrip. ‘Barnyard, barnyard!! Don’t you remember? We passed the Looneyversity Calendar Policy in January and abolished 2013 completely. Never happened. Bad dream. It was a master stroke. Gets us out of all sorts of pickles: the grand stuff-up on trimesters, the putting-the-Ipad-cart-before-the Blended-Learning-horse, closing down all that language teaching (didn’t we cop some heat on that one!), paying hundreds of thousands to those blood-sucking lawyers to get us nowhere in Enterprise Bargaining and all those days I spent in Fair Work Australia fighting the bloody unions. And best of all. The very best of all is that if 2013 didn’t happen we don’t have to give the staff a pay rise for last year. Saves some cash for consolidated revenue. How good is that Barn? More money for us to spend on banquets, first class air tickets and vanity publishing. So don’t worry, I didn’t make it today but I’ll make sure I’m there for the real thing in March 2015.’


Down River: A Retrospective of Jan Reid by Mark Hutchinson

You’ll need to rush down to Dymocks to get a copy of this rare and sought after little tome. Written by the university historian, and published in the dying days of the last vice chancellorship, it pays homage to the reign of Queen Janice. Yet only fify copies were printed and unfortunately, not a single one has been deposited in the university library. In view of all this you would assume, of course, that the Emeritus Regis paid for the production of the glossy little number out of her own pocket. But did she? Did she stump up the cash to pay Mark Hutchinson for his labour. Did she cover the very substantial production costs? Or did the taxpayers foot the bill? Was this yet another example of 2013 UWS management profligacy, as university employees were denied a pay rise for eighteen months? Watch this space.

From Joan of Nark



‘Jaenerys the Unburnt’, Mother of some rather big reptiles, Empress of Five Campdoms, has relinquished her rule. Finally, she finally called it a day (she had us guessing there for a while), surrounded by her adopted clan, the devoted ‘Beauraki’ (a band of savage paper people), and guarded by her ‘Unsullied’ (an army of ultra-disciplined fearsome eunuchs, former slaves, who got their licenses by killing off programs and even schools without blanching or moving a facial muscle). So, no more ‘Jangelising’, no more sermons about the sacred mission of bringing freedom, choice, and excellence to the peasants of Western Sydney, if not the whole known world. It’s enough to make me shed a crocodile tear or two, if not a whole river.



So hey, Ser Barney! If you’re out there, or have some ‘spiders’ in the network, House Looney (yes us, the one with the sigil that looks like a drip needle, although some people think it’s a bird or an opened book. Funny that.) needs another story. After the leeching we’ve had through the Jaenerys Crusades, something like Robin Hood would be good (you know, taking off the rich to give to the poor) – James Cameron, in his retelling of the tale, made a good point about moralising regimes bankrupting themselves through the pursuit of shiny ideas with no thought about the needs of the folks at home, or their own fates.



So, we’re a bit sick of the chivalric posturing, and the endless promotion of shiny expansiveness in order to flog a tired and underfed institution for the benefit of some Holy Grail (coconut shells anyone? )We’re all a bit tired of seeing your empires built on our corpses. In fact, we’re sick to death of being either tortured or ‘jollied along’ while we’re starved of proper funding for teaching and research in order to stock the table of management salaries, bonuses, and whimsy. And we’re made nauseous by our endless and indigestible diet of stupid slogans, calculated speeches made to some idea of some ideal consumer that infantilises the intelligence of any serious student, templates for everything (including ‘original thought’), measures of achievement (will a ruler suffice?), outcomes (did you hear the one about the constipated mathematician…), KPIs (Keep Pleasing Idiots ???), quality assurance and standards based assessments (if a camel wont fit through the eye of a needle it’s always possible to poke it in the eye with one…) … and the daily spray of new policy – soon we’ll be spending more time reading it than anything else.



And if you haven’t noticed already, House Looney is run along the lines of those contraptions that quaintly complicate simple processes, you know, those for switching on a light, say, which involve an orchestration of improbable triggers and perfect flows – like falling dominoes triggering balls running down pipes tipping scales hitting pop-up toasters tossing up flaming buttered crumpets igniting and burning a golden thread holding a silver ball which brushes past a flick switch as it falls towards earth turning it on and giving us light. I tell you, talk about complicated when a small thrust of a finger will do! I wont say anything here about (in)House Looney jokes i.e.


 Q: how many looneyversity committees does it take to change a light-bulb


A: all of them and then don’t hold your breath … if it’s anything like changing the content of your units, plan ahead. A couple of years should do it… Although I haven’t factored in the obligatory signing off by our perky CFO…



So I’d like to make an observation about the contents of your Looneyversity VC induction pac, which I’m guessing contains a pair of scissors and a hammer in case you want to indulge in a little trimming here and there, or just a bit of banging things about to rattle the troops (what’s left of them, that is, after last year’s ‘Battle of the Bulge’. Some exercise in belt tightening that was in the wake of all those new ipads and our recent $1,500 sign up bonus – what was that about? Secret Santa? Makes you wonder what the managers got).



Anyway, Barney, my observation is that rather than a sleek, well oiled and maintained machine raring to go, you’ve inherited a round table of managerial knights sitting on top of their ‘castles’ (for want of a better word) ingeniously held together by band-aids and a load of spakfilla. In fact, the children’s game ‘Kerplunk’ is probably a good way of thinking with images here. It’s a tube with holes. You stick wooden straws across it to form a platform before filling it with marbles. The aim of the game is to pull the straws out one by one without being the person left with the last straw before all the loose marbles in Kastle Kerplunk come tumbling down… Know what I mean?    


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