The COVID19 NUS Student Action Working Group currently has 190 active members working towards the #SaveOurStudents campaign that aims to engage a better connection between campus unions and national demands, and orient the student movement appropriately concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. The NUS (National Union of Students) is the peak representative body fighting for the rights of students across Australia – campaigning for an accessible and equitable education and welfare system for all; regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or religion.
In a March press release, NUS President Molly Willmott issued a statement and 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 livelihoods and futures are under threat due to the virus.
“In its silence, our government is finalising a generation of inequality for today’s young people,” she said.
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.
In response to this, the Save our Students campaign operates across seven key demands ranging from fixing Centrelink and securing stable living conditions, through to matters like 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 organisers 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 Labor Opposition, Leader Jodi McKay called on the Berejiklian Government to support international students amid the COVID-19 crisis.
In McKay’s announcement, Labor 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 enrollment and leaving institutions to slash their annual budgets in the face of a predicted foreign student enrolment collapse next semester. The financial cash flow crisis equates to thousands of 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.
Students are being left behind, all while being expected to perform in challenging academic conditions and so the NUS will be hosting an online rally to #saveourstudents on June 3rd.