The new measures introduced by the Labour federal government in 2010 intending to bring the education system more in line with private business values has imported one of private businesses biggest problems. More than half of all the teaching and research staff in Australia’s public universities are now employed on hourly contracts. Instead of having a dedicated team of staff, universities now hire on a semester to semester basis, only informing their “casual” staff whether their services will be required during the first week of that semester. With constantly fluctuating class sizes and attendance, there are no guarantees for these freelance educators of whether they will have any work at all and many are now fleeing the education sector in search of more stable positions elsewhere.
According to surveys, for every ten new positions that open up in a University seven of them will now only be available to these casual staff. Thanks to budget cuts and the absence of any bargaining position those casual staff mostly earn less than $500 a week and that is only during periods where they are actively teaching. With funding tied to student numbers, universities are constantly undercutting one another and it is driving the competent staff away. Leaving only those with the bare minimum of teaching credentials and little to no experience behind to educate the next generation.
Those experienced educators who have tried to continue their employment within the Australian higher education system have suffered ongoing indignities, where they are pressured into working unpaid overtime to prepare course programs that are then handed off to another academic who is willing to teach for a few dollars less each week.
More concerning for students is the fact that these reduced hours for educators mean that they are no longer able or even allowed to fully research and prepare proper course loads. They are being encourage to provide a surface education rather than delving into the depths of their subjects. One lecturer even admitted that much of the first year of university was now being taught with the material intended for Year 8 secondary school students.
In short, the measures that the Labour-Green coalition introduced that were supposedly intended to improve the standards at Australian Universities has instead resulted in the blatant exploitation and devaluing of the educational staff that should have been treasured.