Impact of Proposal on International Student Market

We, as a group of Chinese international students, are writing to inform you that the proposed restructure of the School of Social Sciences is getting significant attention on Chinese social media (WeChat) with many people saying ‘I would not choose UWA’.

It is our opinion that allowing this Proposal to go through will have a strong blow to your reputation in China. Chinese parents value international reputation more than other indexes. That means you are risking losing significant numbers of future international students.

In our cohort, complaints have been expressed across campus and online in the past few days. A number of full fee-paying students are now considering transferring their degree to other universities. Some have already made enquiries. This proposal is having a severe impact on the student experience and the mental health of many students. Given this has been developed at a time when international students have been disconnected from their support networks and family, we consider this proposal reckless to our welfare.

We express our opposition to this proposal and hope it will be withdrawn as soon as possible.



Article Posted on Chinese Social Media 16th July

Another scandal! UWA criticized for "short-sighted" "saying one thing and doing another"! Students furiously denounced it as a "degree factory"---valuing economic benefits more than student education!

While you are still studying in your school, your major is gone!

For students, the most heartbroken thing, I'm afraid, is---

While you are still studying in your school, the school is suddenly gone!

The second appalling may be---

While you are still studying in your school, your major is gone!

Recently, at the only G8 university in Western Australia, UWA, students might be facing such a dilemma —— UWA will cut 16 positions in anthropology, sociology, political science, geography, and Asian studies and other disciplines, and reorganize the School of Social Sciences.

At the same time, UWA’s branding, marketing and recruitment department, and library staff will be cut off on a large scale.

According to the National Tertiary Education Union (National Tertiary Education Union) estimates, 300 to 400 people in the University will be made redundant overall.

The association estimates that major abolition and reorganization will result in the loss of 28 mentors, which will severely impact students, especially 43% to 65% of doctoral students.

Seriously? When students wake up, the whole world has changed!

Who did students in those majors piss off? 

Their supervisors got sacked! Majors cancelled!

After years of hard work, this scandalous drama occurred when they are almost there?

Their fury can blow up the university.

What is more irritating is that the reason why UWA disbands these majors! It turns out to be---

They don't make money!

The anthropology and sociology discipline has been hit hardest, because the University claimed that anthropology and sociology are not economically sustainable as archaeologywhich brings in funding from private companies in mining.

At present, $40 million needs to be cut from the university’s operational spend, so it starts with cutting off the less economically profitable majors.

A university spokesperson said the proposal to discontinue anthropology and sociology as a major was a result of continuing low enrolments.

Students furiously denounced the university as a “degree factory”

This has led to strong oppositions from the students.

The outraged students united with the University of Western Australia Union, the National Student Union and the Union to organize a protest on the main campus of Nedlands on Friday afternoon.

The students’ reasons are:

This has led to the dismissal of world-renowned anthropologists and sociologists, and a significant decimation in research on issues such as climate change, migration, racism, and class inequality.

Nicole McEwen, coordinator of the UWA Education Action Network, said:

“When you look at the role anthropology plays, not just in Indigenous affairs in WA, but in researching migration and refugee rights and researching racism, xenophobia, the Black Lives Matter movement, gender inequality, wealth inequality, all of that.”

Student ‘Fightback’ spokesman Scott Harney agreed, saying students wanted the space provided by universities to grapple with the issues affecting them.

“What we’ve seen in the past three decades or so is an increasing penetration of corporations into university campuses with this kind of argument being made that what is studied in higher education has to be linked to industry,” he said.

“Universities are a space to debate, inquire and query, but more and more it’s just become a degree factory where you basically just try to pump out undergraduates and make money from it.

The university is no longer a cradle for cultivating talents, but a money-making machine! 

Therefore, UWA selectively ignores the importance of anthropology and sociology, no longer focuses on seeking knowledge, only pursues economic interests, and takes economic sustainability as the only criterion.

This is so disappointing!

Is the University of Western Australia still that sacred temple of knowledge?

I'm afraid it's long been completely contaminated by the smell of copper!

More alarmingly, this trend is not only seen in the University of Western Australia, other universities are not immune to this.

Anneke Demanuele, from the NSU, said the problem wasn’t just at UWA, with more than 17,000 jobs having been lost from the higher education sector.

“Saying one thing and doing another”

In fact, UWA’s move to cut off these majors has been widely criticized.

Some experts believe that this move will impact not only academic research, but also the future economy.

National Tertiary Education Union UWA president Sanna Peden said the proposals would cease, slash or outsource work central to the university’s stated mission “to provide world-class education, research and community engagement for the advancement of the prosperity and welfare of our communities”.

“We have particular concerns over the change proposals in social sciences and brand, marketing and recruitment,” Dr Peden said.

“The new structure would hamper the university’s capacity to attract new students, and gut some of the areas of the university with the highest student satisfaction ratings.

A frankly bizarre move for a university that claims to value student experience.”

The University of Western Australia keeps saying that it values student experience, but it cuts down those important courses and destroys the areas that students like. It's really saying one thing and doing another.

It is really short-sighted to cut off the majors that are essential to the engineering projects, just for the sake of budget balance.

Axing anthropology and sociology and carving off humanities courses in Western Australia risks billions of dollars more in failed engineering and mining projects, according to leading experts in the field.

It is well known that Western Australia is rich in mineral resources, and to extract these resources, anthropology plays an indispensable role in it.

A recent Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA survey found that 65 of the state’s mining, oil and gas, energy and contractor industries contributed a direct $83 billion to Australia’s economy in 2019-20 and directly provided more than 94,000 full-time jobs.

Behind the scenes, anthropology has played a substantial and important practical research role in native title negotiations, particularly for miners.

UWA adjunct professor and University of Queensland emeritus professor of anthropology, David Trigger, said industry wouldn’t welcome a shortage in WA-trained anthropologists given the level of cultural investigation and legal appeals built into native title negotiations with traditional owners.

The anthropology training in UWA is indispensable. anthropologists graduating from the eastern states can not replace those trained in WA. 

Professor Trigger said, “it’s very political,” “it’s a set of skills in linguistic anthropology, in social and cultural studies, that can’t be just assumed to be there for anybody to use.”

Professor Trigger also said the university would lose international standing, if UWA insists on cutting off these majors.

UWA seems to remain hard-headed faced with these concerns,

The university argued it will offer “a number of programs that have proven much more attractive to students and which provide equivalent learning and skills development opportunities”, including a master in forensic anthropology and a master in international development.

A UWA spokesperson said, “Students engage with concepts and methods in anthropology with a focus on international development.” 

“UWA has also established a major in Indigenous knowledge, history and heritage that draws directly on the experience and knowledge of staff from the School of Indigenous Studies.

“This major covers much of the space that our more traditional anthropology major used to occupy but also enables our students to learn directly from Indigenous scholars.”

This implies that he really believes majors such as anthropology and sociology are redundant and can be completely replaced by others.

However, NTEU’s Dr Cathy Moore said the cuts would leave a gaping hole in the breadth of education in WAand “reduce opportunities for graduates to build the critical thinking and influencing skills that underpin future career success in any field”.

Students and experts in related fields have expressed criticism and concern. Would UWA continue its own way? Would it really like to remain hard-headed?