For release: Tuesday 20th November 2012

University of Western Sydney to drastically cut courses and staff despite a 30 million projected budget surplus

In a panicked reaction to a drop in 2012 student enrolments, UWS senior management are proposing massive course cuts and staff redundancies. The UWS Stop the Cuts Coalition claim that these proposed changes are a foolish and unjustified over-reaction that will have severe consequences for students who will lose out in terms of education choice and quality. More than half of UWS students are the Airst in their family to have attended university, while almost one quarter (23%) are from low socio-economic backgrounds. The Stop the Cuts coalition claim that the real financial problem at UWS is
the ongoing siphoning of funds to pay for more and more bureaucracy and opaque “strategic initiatives.”Like a number of other Australian universities, the University of Western Sydney was faced with less than the projected number of enrolments in 2012 because of a change in government policy which allowed universities to operate in an “uncapped environment” where they could offer as many places as they liked.

Staff representatives are angry that cuts are consequently being made at the ‘chalk face’ and not in central administration. Dr George Morgan, the academic staff representative on the university governing body, the Board of Trustees, claims: “the Schools are only allowed to spend 37.5% of the income they earn from teaching students, a substantial reduction over the last decade. The remainder goes to central services (library costs etc) but also to costly administration, with a large discretionary budget available to senior management. At UWS we have among the highest student-staff ratios (26:1) and employ more casual tutors/lecturers than almost any university in Australia.”

“It’s clear” he said “that the university made a strategic mistake in planning for a large growth in enrolments this year and this hasn’t come through. Instead of cuts being made to management, they are cutting academics. Yet we had no say in the decision to expand student numbers in the first place”.

The two worst affected units are the School of Business where twenty-nine academics will lose their jobs, and the School of Humanities and Communication Arts where twenty-five will go. Courses to be axed include the Bachelor of Economics, three majors in the Arts degree Arabic, Italian and Spanish and the Bachelor of Communication sub-majors of writing, performance and animation.

The university is also disbanding the Student Learning Unit that provides academic skills support to undergraduate students, many of whom are from socially disadvantaged backgrounds and are the first in their families to go to university (comprising over half of the student body).

The loss of several language programs is particularly damaging given that the university is located in one of the most culturally diverse areas of Australia.

Dr Mustapha Taibi, the Director of Academic Programmes for Languages, Interpreting and Translation said, “the university proudly proclaims a mission to ‘link its activities to the development of the Greater Western Sydney region’. A university located in GWS which no longer offers languages central to the cultural and linguistic life of the region can no longer pretend to be committed to its mission”.

All of the university’s academic economists have been targeted for redundancy including Professor Steve Keen, an internationally renowned heterodox economist and one of the few in his profession to predict the 2008 global financial crisis. Professor Keen said “I’m one of the few economists acknowledged as having seen the crisis coming and so it’s bizarre that the university can simply ignore all that and simply propose to cut the department completely, simply as a way of coping with costs”.

Rhonda Hawkins, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Corporate Strategy and Services) has signalled there will be cuts across the university’s schedule of offerings, drastically reducing the options available to students and forcing some out of programs in which they are already in enrolled.

The length of classes at the university have been cut and teaching staff are being asked to create assessments which require minimal marking in order to accommodate ever-expanding economies of scale.

UWS enrolment figures
UWS students, first in family to attend university
UWS Student protest group
Stop the Cuts Twitter feed (@SOSUWS)

George Morgan (Humanities and Communication Arts) ph 0414 958 726
Steve Keen (Economics) (while travelling)
Brian Pinkstone (Economics) ph: 0408 608 343
Alison Lim (student) ph: 0425 301 478
Norman Harker (former UWS academic and outspoken critic of administrative
waste at the university)