Claims regional unis most at risk from ‘a two-tiered’ education system

Organisers of this week’s highly publicised Q&A protest, have said regional and rural university students will be the most at risk from proposed cuts to higher education.

Brigitte Garazzo, co-organiser of Monday night’s protest and councillor of the Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association, said Commission of Audit recommendations to government included a move toward a two-tiered education model.

“They basically want to push us into an American style system,” she said.

“Where there is an elite, who can pay for their education, and then there’s like the community colleges, and that’s the sort of direction we are going in.”

Ms Garazzo said elitism already existed in the education system, with inner-city universities regarded as more prestigious due to the cost of living in urban areas. She said mooted cuts would further push rural and regional students to the outer.

“It will further entrench the divide between rich and poor students, who can and can’t go to university,” she said.

Third year student Erin Doyle said she had experienced prejudice from other university students due to her choice to study at the University of Wollongong.

As an audience member to Monday night’s Q&A, Ms Doyle composed a tweet before the filming of the show that was later read out by one of the show’s producers.

“I remembered how UTS had, in jest, called UOW a ‘community college’ at an intervarsity law competition when students from UOW had beaten them,” she said.

Her tweet, which read “University of Wollongong Students represent in the audience tonight! #qanda @QandA #uow #notacommunitycollege #shutupUTS”, caused laughter from the audience, but she said it highlighted the concern that regional universities were more “community colleges” than elite institutions.

Meanwhile, Universities Australia (UA) has held a meeting to discuss the proposed reforms to higher and tertiary education ahead of the Federal Budget release next week.

In a statement, it said the government’s support of universities on a per-capita basis should not decrease and that any changes made should not impinge on any student’s ability to access higher education.

Ms Doyle and Ms Garazzo remain skeptical.

“By the end of my degree I will already be in excess of $100,000 in debt,” Ms Doyle said.

“So any increase to that amount is of great concern to myself and clearly to those students in protest.”

Multimedia Reporter: Samara Gardner

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