Caps off means overcrowding, says NTEU

Although the uncapping of Australian university enrolments has opened up university education to thousands more people, the NTEU says it has also resulted in overcrowded lectures and staff cuts.
NTEU national president Jeannie Rea said that while removing caps was a positive change in policy direction, it has also come with some drawbacks. “While the federal government funding of universities has increased, the amount per student hasn’t kept up. Universities are having to do more with less,” Rea said.
As a result, universities are cutting back on teaching staff and the number of classes previously offered. “Administrative and support staff are also losing their jobs. Universities are also cutting the number of classes formerly offered as part of courses, so the opportunity for interaction between teaching staff and students is increasingly limited,” Rea said.
She said that half of undergraduate teaching is now undertaken by casuals, with casuals making up about 40 per cent of academic staff. Casual academics spend limited time on campus and are often unavailable for students seeking feedback. “That’s why the NTEU is attempting to address casualisation through this year’s enterprise bargaining round.”
Rea said the creation of teaching fellow positions across the sector to replace work that is currently casualised would be a positive development for both staff and students. “At the same time, the government also needs to boost the amount it pays universities for Commonwealth Supported Places. The increase in student numbers shouldn’t come at the cost of students’ learning and a casualised, over-worked, and overstressed university workforce.”

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