Cost cutting is nothing new at ECU.
Over the past few years we have seen a spate of changes to courses and support services that make our University an incredibly difficult place to study, with barriers to accessing information, a lack of quality in learning and teaching resources, and course structuring that is blatantly discriminatory.
Take, for example, ‘Operation Excellence.’ Never heard of it? That is probably because the University administration made it so unappealing for any student to get involved in the change process that not even the most involved student wanted to try. Operation Excellence was designed to get rid of course-specific support services (‘School’ support officers) and replace them with Faculty-wide officers. This meant that a huge demographic of our support staff (usually those that were ‘too old’, ‘too progressive’, or ‘too vocal’) were made redundant, allowing the University to implement a system where a nursing student would be getting advice from someone who’s most previous expertise may have been in the Physics or Chemistry course; a Law student getting advice from a Accounting or Marketing support officer; an Education student getting advice from a Creative Arts or Film officer. Now, when we say ‘too old, progressive, or vocal’ what we mean is that these people had the experience of being with the University for over 5 years (some over 15), knew the University administrations ‘tricks’, were in favour of the Student Guild, or were members of the NTEU (the staff union). These were the staff that knew what they were doing, and weren’t afraid to fight for it.
Now we come to ‘Curriculum 2012.’ Never heard of it (again)? What you may have noticed is that we no longer have a true Philosophy major, or that the entire Geography major has been wiped. Curriculum 2012 was aimed at ‘rationalising down’ the units and majors that we have at ECU so as to stay competitive with other Universities nationally - read, prioritise computer science, health science and business; forget the rest. It didn’t in any way look at how students wanted to learn, rather, it told them that, now that the curriculum is ‘student focused’, you are going to have a lot less options but a whole lot more responsibility. One of those responsibilities would be fixing your own course once certain units or entire unitsets were deleted from the curriculum. And, in relation to the first paragraph, you would no longer have someone with an in-depth knowledge of your discipline or potential career path to help you along the way.
We see all this at a time when the University can afford a new computer science building, continuous upgrades to its sporting facilities, increasing the pay of its executives year in year out, but very little in the way of a ‘student life’, a ‘campus culture’ that pretty much every other University around Australia has. We see this at a time where the Guild has little to no support (financial or otherwise), where students are paying through the nose for food, books, a gym membership (things that would be a given at any other University); at time where we can not even achieve an appropriate level of support services for students with disabilities, international students, Indigenous students, students from low socio-economic background (of which ECU has one of the highest demographics in Australia). The Mature Age Student Network had to be gruelingly constructed by a student, not by or through University support.
Yes, it is time for change at ECU, but not on one level - it is time for students to get vocal, for staff to get vocal, for our entire community stand up and start demanding an extra bang for our buck. It has been over 10 years that ECU has been called SuperTafe, and that label is not going to go away easily - no matter how much the University administration spends on its marketing.
Cost cutting is nothing new at ECU.