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Corporatisation of Universities Exposed

Written by: Ned K. on 17 July 2023


A Briefing Paper by Eliza Littleton for the Australia Institute this month exposes in considerable detail how Universities have become corporations competing for the overseas student dollar. 

The Report finds that since 1995 federal government funding for universities has declined from 0.9% of GDP to 0.6% of GDP in 2021. This may not seem a lot but in dollar terms the Report says this equates to a $6.5 billion reduction in federal government funding in 2021.

The Report also reveals that since 1995 private sources of revenue of universities have more than doubled from 21.7% to an all-time high of 48% in 2019.
The Report also notes that the re-introduction of university fees and the Dawkins "reforms" of the late 1980s under a federal ALP Government sent universities down the corporate road. This accelerated the number of overseas students as a percentage of total enrolments.
Once the corporate road was taken, universities outsourced support services and made casual employment and fixed term contracts the norm, forcing thousands of university workers into the ranks of insecure employment experienced by thousands of workers in all sectors of the capitalist economy in Australia.
The Report also notes that the dominant business sectors of the economy such as defense, space technology and information technology have an increasing influence in the disciplines within universities. Social sciences and humanities take a back seat. Even in medicine, students are encouraged to specialize at university as that is where the big bucks are made after graduation.  This has led to a shortage of doctors who serve the people at what most people know as the "family doctor" or "GP".
The profit motive has hit not only academic staff hard, but support services as well, with year after year of outsourcing of maintenance services, security, catering and cleaning. 
The ideology of capitalism has always been a feature of universities even before the corporatisation of their operations over the last 30 years. The predominance of capitalist ideology within the operations of universities has intensified in the 21st Century with the majority of university Boards of Directors having a corporate background.
The Report from the Australia Institute concludes with a ray of hope from its findings. The Report includes results of surveys of Australian people about the state of university education and found that the majority of people are concerned that universities are prioritising profits at the expense of education and declining access to universities for young people in Australia.
They expect better from a federal Labor Government. The ball is in the Labor Government's court. So far, the signs are not good with the SA Labor Government throwing money at a merger between the University of Adelaide and University of South Australia to create an "internationally competitive" university! Following this recent announcement, the SA Premier made a trip to China in an effort to increase overseas Chinese student numbers. 
Both universities also have specialist “defence” sectors, with US armaments manufacturer Lockheed Martin a major partner of both.  BAE and Swedish defence contractor SAAB are partners of the Uni of SA.
This is not a good indicator that the federal Labor Government will reverse the corporatisation trend of universities unless a people's movement mobilises to win education to serve the people not corporate profits.


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