Sunday, 14 April 2013

Cutting $2.8bn from

university funding is the latest hare-brained announcement by our Federal Government. No, wait a moment, that is an insult to hares. They have more sense.
I watched Professor Glyn Davis being interviewed on the SBS news service last night. He was clearly still shocked by the savagery of the cuts the Gillard government has proposed. 
The interview was an interesting one. I suspect he had written the questions - or at least collaborated in the writing of them. They were very careful and obviously designed to provide a maximum amount of information in a minimum time to anxious students. His responses were equally careful.
It does not matter. Cutting $2.8bn in university funding is still unacceptable. It will disadvantage all tertiary students. Even now Australian universities have been over-dependent on the full fee paying students from other countries. Our universities are some of the most under-funded universities in the world.
I suppose I have an outdated view of what a university should be. I like to think of universities as places where students with above average intellectual capacities can learn and where the staff teach these students and do research. The reality of course is that universities are now businesses designed to push through the maximum number of units (students) for a minimal cost.
The money being "saved" at university level will, according to the government, be used in schools instead. Apparently throwing more money at schools, especially the state school system, is going to raise standards and - somehow - make Australia lead the world again. I doubt this. Teachers I have spoken to doubt it as well. 
Of course the teachers I have spoken to tend to be older teachers. I only know a small number of younger teachers - but even they have expressed their doubts.
Class sizes are half what they were when I was a student teacher - and a third or even less or what they were when the Senior Cat was a student teacher. Does that make them better places? Surely there is much more to schools than class sizes?
The amount of knowledge we now need to know has increased but so have the resources available.
Older teachers I have talked to say that, although always nice to have, schools do not need more resources as much as they need to change what goes on inside them. As one of them put it to me recently, "I am not there to entertain. I am there to teach. The problem is the kids expect to be constantly entertained."
I suspect that there will be some fancy footwork (accounting) on the part of the government come Budget time and that schools will not get all of what is being taken from universities. There are already suggestions that some of the funding will go on the political needs of the government (marginal seats) rather than be spread equitably. More of it will be siphoned off to try and suggest that things like the National Disability Insurance Scheme is going to happen. 
I just hope they leave enough to teach future generations to read. They may need to teach themselves after that.

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