Charles Sturt University’s humanities students past and present say they are feeling misled and let down at the university’s decision to cut courses and slash staff numbers.
The university recently announced it would be axing two undergraduate degrees – the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Liberal Studies – thereby cutting down its humanities staff from 23 to just 12 in the process.
Alisha Eade, who graduated from the Bachelor of Arts with a major in philosophy in February, said the decision was “tragic” for staff and students, but also set the region back years in terms of equal opportunity.
“It’s not fair at all – we deserve the same opportunities that city kids have, and so many people come to Wagga for that big city feel,” Ms Eade said.
“I had actually planned to do my master’s next year, but with the cuts going on, I was advised that it was pretty unlikely that I’d actually be able to.”
Ms Eade relocated to Wagga from Balranald to study her degree, but said she quickly felt disappointed when CSU began shifting her philosophy classes to online courses.
“It’s just horrible that this individuality is being stamped out, like they’re only interested in subjects that are going to benefit the economy, like science and engineering,” she said.
“It’s devastating for Wagga, it’s devastating for CSU, and it’s devastating for Australia’s youth as a whole, because it’s not just CSU that’s doing this.”
Teachers and union officials believe CSU’s decision is part of a much broader trend of casualising Australia’s tertiary education system, crippling job stability for the academics in question.
It was sort of like I’d been led in, almost under false pretenses.- Tahlia McKenzie
While Ms Eade was part of one of the last classes that got to complete their honours year, current student Tahlia McKenzie said she will no longer have that option when she completes her Bachelor of Arts in just a few weeks’ time.
An English major, Ms McKenzie already had to relocate from West Wyalong to Wagga to study at CSU, but said she will now most likely have to pack up and move again to earn her honours.
“I wasn’t really surprised when I heard the news, because a lot of my subjects from second year onwards were only being offered online, and earlier this year I found out that they weren’t offering honours anymore,” Ms McKenzie said.
“It does mean I’m probably going to have to relocate again to do my masters, and if I can’t relocate, then I’m going to have to look at just doing something else.
Ms McKenzie described experiencing the same disappointment as Ms Eade throughout her degree when she found her courses were being cut by the semester.
“It was sort of like I’d been led in, almost under false pretenses, because in first year all my subjects were offered, but then from second year, when I’d already made commitments to things like accommodation and clubs, that’s when they cut them,” Ms McKenzie said.
“Online study is very isolating – it’s not what comes to mind when people tell you about the university experience… it was like they sort of let me think I was going to be having the uni lifestyle they’d advertised.”
While the students already enrolled in the two degrees in question will still be able to graduate, teachers fear the impending staff cuts will just mean more and more online courses until they do.