But Education Minister Christopher Pyne said in a media release in March proposed higher education reforms were “fair”because they treat TAFE and university students the same.
About 500 protestors against proposed higher education reforms met outside the State Library of Victoria yesterday afternoon.
“The elite that run our Government want a university system for the privileged,” National Union of Students Rose Steele said.
NSU State Education Officer Declan Murphy said protestors gathered to show “contempt for the Liberal Government” who were “pushing” to make universities a “corporate wonderland”.
University deregulation legislation was defeated in the Senate for the second time last March.
But Mr Pyne said he would “keep on trying to get these reforms through”.
“The Liberal Government has contempt for our universities,” said Mr Murphy.
And President of the National Tertiary Education Union Jeannie Rea said the Government wanted universities to “support the privileged”.
Mr Murphy said “unjust policy will exclude tens of thousands of working class and poorer Australians from university”.
Mr Pyne said the reforms have benefits for students from “all walks of life”.
“They extend opportunity and ensure there are enough places for students who would otherwise not get into university,” he said.
Protestors held signs calling for Pyne’s resignation.
Signs stated “education is a right” and “education should not be a debt sentence”.
The Australian estimated basic three-year degrees would cost about $48,000 under proposed legislation.
An Australian National University study indicated it would take 30 years to repay education loans under deregulation policies compared to 16 years currently.
Mr Pyne described the “core” of the policy as allowing “better research, better teaching, better quality outcomes” with extra revenue.
Protestors marched through Elizabeth Street lead by police officers and followed by police on horseback.
Marchers sat on the corner of Bourke Street and Swanston Street.
“Our education is not for profit,” they chanted.
“Access to higher education must be equitable and merit based for Australia to have a strong, smart economy in the future,” Ms Rea said.
Mr Pyne said university deregulation would “free” universities to “be the best they can be”.
“If this reform doesn’t pass it will be a slow decline into stagnation and mediocrity,” he said.