We won, but the battle for our university isn’t over

Post No. 8 'We won, but the battle for our university isn’t over' was published on 21 June, 2021.

Mark Vaile has announced his resignation as Chancellor of the University of Newcastle.

This victory wouldn’t have been possible without the huge grassroots wave of opposition to the appointment. From protests to open letters and petitions to conversations across our city, Newcastle has said loud and clear that a fossil fuel industry leader is not the right choice for our University. I have to thank Mark Vaile for seeing sense and choosing to resign instead of dragging this fight out.

Today, we won, but the battle for our University isn’t over. Vaile’s resignation is welcome and shows that community action can have a real impact, but nothing has fundamentally changed. This is still the same university that thought Vaile was the best candidate for Chancellor. It is still the same university that is laying off 110 full-time workers, disproportionately impacting women, in a so-called push for “financial stability”. It is still the same university that has lined up 530 of its courses to be sent to the shredder. It is still the same university that has celebrated these drastic cuts as a victory despite the pain that they will cause.

The quality of education at the University of Newcastle is going to be degraded significantly by these cuts. Students will have less choice, less experienced lecturers and the lecturers and other academic staff are going to have their time and energy spread much thinner because they have to be doing more because there are less staff. These measures have supposedly been in the name of “optimisation” and “improving the student experience” but it is clear they are purely a cost saving measure. The University’s quest for a larger share of the international education market has caused students and staff to be left behind.

Only 5 of the 16 members on the council of the university were elected. Staff and students are the university, and it’s governing body should reflect that. The processes by which Mark Vaile was appointed Chancellor are unclear and held behind closed doors. The university and its council must be more transparent going forward.

Right now, I am incredibly proud of my city for successfully standing up to the university’s chancellor appointment, but we must continue applying pressure on our University to put community and people, not profit, first.