Union fights for future of students during Covid-19



NUS rally for students is part of #SaveOurStudents campaign

The COVID-19 NUS Student Action Working Group currently has 190 active members working on the #SaveOurStudents campaign. The group is fighting for a better connection between campus unions and national demands and to orient the student movement appropriately during the pandemic.

The NUS (National Union of Students) is the primary representative body fighting for the rights of higher education students across Australia.

NUS President Molly Willmott issued a statement in March with a list of demands for the Morrison government endorsed by dozens of student representatives from around the country, representing hundreds of thousands of students whose educational futures are under threat due to the virus.

“In its silence, our government is finalizing a generation of inequality for today’s young people,” said Willmott.

The #SaveOurStudents campaign demands are broad enough to appeal to a wide range of students, especially those of minority groups.

“It is important for students of these contingents to become involved and have their voices heard to ensure the most considered response to this pandemic,” said Humaira Nasrin, NUS Women’s Officer.

The campaign operates across seven key demands ranging from fixing Centrelink and securing stable living conditions, through to international student welfare and ensuring equitable academic adjustments.

“The strength of this campaign is that it promotes flexibility in its adaptation to a campus level, with student unions and organizers able to adopt the campaign to the conditions of one particular institution,” said Nasrin.

During April and May, the NUS has been focused on the international demands and maintaining pressure upon the government, particularly regarding visa extensions and welfare services.

“With more than six billion dollars set to be lost from the sector resulting from Covid-19, there is validity in both student and staff concern regarding what the future holds for the education space,” said Lincoln Aspinall, NUS Education Officer.

In a May media release the NSW Opposition Leader Jodi McKay called on the Berejiklian government to support international students amid the COVID-19 crisis.

In McKay’s announcement, NSW Shadow Minister for Tertiary Education, Clayton Barr said “We know that our universities and tertiary education institutions are already doing plenty to look after these stranded students and I applaud them for that. But I cannot understand why the NSW government is doing nothing to help. This government is putting the future of our education economy at risk.”

Some campuses are facing the possibility of losing up to a quarter of their funding from lost international student revenue and future enrolments. This could lead institutions to cut annual budgets in the face of a predicted foreign student enrolment collapse next semester. There are concerns this cash flow crisis could equate to job losses, inevitable reductions in the quality of learning conditions, and a generation of students worse off than pre-pandemic conditions.

“There are two major concerns that lie here for students. The first concern is that there is a likelihood this financial pressure will be passed down to students by institutions attempting to recoup lost revenue. The second concern exists with the likely probability of long-term detriment to students’ studies,” said Aspinall.

The NUS says students are being left behind while being expected to perform in challenging academic conditions. An online rally to #SaveOurStudents is scheduled for June 3rd.