University re-design shows grip of finance capital
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by Nick G.
The federal government’s planned deregulation of tertiary education represents imperialist finance capital’s redesigning of the ideological apparatus that serves society’s economic foundations.
In the post-feudal era of early capitalism, the specialised training that had been required since ancient times for “men of learning” (women were excluded) in areas like medicine, mathematics and religion was expanded to incorporate the “humanities”. These were subjects that justified the transition from feudalism to capitalism by the advocacy and refinement of “universal human values” in literature and art, and in history and philosophy.
Accordingly, universities developed as “ivory towers” where “academic freedom” and “pure research” prevailed – all in the interests of coating the naked greed of the capitalist in a many-coloured coat of bourgeois intellectual endeavour.
Kevlar, not corduroy
But in the era of the end-game of imperialist control of the world, such “ivory towers” are no longer required. Imperialist finance capital is everywhere accompanied by the agents of violence and reaction. It struts the world stage in Kevlar, not corduroy.
Hence, for some decades, universities have been pushed towards a much narrower function of directly serving the interests of big corporations.
This has been seen in the enrolment patterns of students looking for corporate careers, in the subsequent redesign or closure of courses, and in the starving of research funds for projects that have no immediate use for big business.
Past Liberal and Labor governments have been complicit in this, but it has taken Abbott and Pyne to make clear the redesign of the sector.
Pushed in same direction as TAFE
Basically they seek to impose on the universities the same disastrous policies that have seen the destruction of the TAFE sector.
University fees are to be deregulated and private providers will be encouraged to compete with universities for what little public funding is made available.
Most university courses will suffer cuts in government funding, with the average around 20%.
Various sources within the sector predict that the cost of some degrees will rise to as much as $100,000 or $200,000.
Changes to the HELP loan scheme will increase the costs faced by students in paying university fees.
Entrance to a public university, already denied to many working class and lower middle class students, will be further restricted as ability to pay fees makes its impact felt.
Pyne’s weasel words justification is that there will be a massive increase in scholarships for disadvantaged students.
But the more honest spokespersons for the ruling class aren’t having any of this.
Business Council sets agenda
They want even less spent on university education and believe that it is wasted on large numbers of Australian kids.
Catherine Livingstone, the new Business Council of Australia president, says that Australian universities are enrolling too many domestic students, and that they should be doing VET courses instead.
Livingstone speaks directly for finance capital. She began her career with Price Waterhouse and became Chief Executive, Finance for Nucleus Ltd which placed her in as Chief Executive of its subsidiary, Cochlear Pty Ltd. She went on from there to top positions in the Macquarie Bank and Telstra.
The corporations she speaks for in her new role at the BCA believe that universities should only train students in skills needed to help in capital accumulation, that there should therefore be fewer university places, and that making ability to pay fees a determinant in who enrols will allow governments to even further reduce funding and thus reduce corporate taxes.
This is how the Age of Entitlement ends – not with a Degree but with a Training Certificate.
And to guard the corporate wealth hoarded at the expense of social programs for our people Livingstone wants changes to education for toddlers as well.
In an interview she said urgent intervention was needed in the education and training system as early as kindergarten, to “protect future prosperity”.
As with universities, so with kindergartens!
Naturally, there is resistance to this redesign demanded by finance capital.
On August 20, university students came out in force against the government and corporate dismantling of tertiary education.
And the SA Branch of the National Tertiary Education Union will bring university staff to Pyne’s electoral office on September 10.
These actions will mark the beginning of a protracted campaign to save tertiary education from the vandals of imperialist finance capital.
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