Two hundred students rallied and staged at sit-in at Sydney University in October to oppose the possible merger of the Department of Political Economy into the Department of Government and International relations. A review board is considering the plan, which would destroy the possibility of taking a Political Economy major. They have so far ignored over 50 submissions from students and staff.
The rally showed that many students are prepared to fight these cuts, turning up to the demonstration in the midst of assessments.
Speeches from students, staff and union representatives were met with applause and students marched up to the Dean of Arts’ office chanting “Dean of Arts, hear us say, political economy, here to stay!” and “no ifs, no buts, no education cuts!” Outside his office students sat down and chanted, “O-pen the do-or!”
Political Economy has always been a thorn in the side of the university establishment, discussing criticism of mainstream, neo-liberal economics and encouraging discussion of radical economists. The Department was won the 1970s out of a joint student and staff campaign. Then as now, there was a major economic crisis sweeping the globe. Sydney University wants to cut the only economics department in the country that offers an understanding of the situation.
The attacks on Political Economy are part of a plan for cuts across campus. Each subject is being made responsible to bear its own costs and income so as, in their words, to “encourage the development of revenue”.
The university is increasingly orientated towards corporate sector funding rather than providing quality education.
However, this amalgamation is not a fait accompli. As well as the brilliant demonstration, students have passed unanimous resolutions in several classes opposing the merger.
The administration is nervous about confronting a politicised group of students. If we keep up the pressure, we can save Political Economy.