'Immoral' TAFE cuts rebound on students

IVAN Valderrama is the human face of the crisis facing Melbourne's west over the state government's $300 million TAFE funding cuts.

Speaking at a community meeting in Newport last Thursday, the Colombian migrant said he feared for those who couldn't afford to study English as a second language (ESL) from next year.

Victoria University teacher Anne Dowling, who will lose her job next year, said fees for ESL courses then would more than double.

Mr Valderrama, who will this year complete his English certificate IV at VU's St Albans campus, said the course had enabled him to lead a new life. Now able to speak English, he intends to study mechanical engineering at Melbourne University and work in the science or engineering sector. "I think that without these courses I wouldn't be applying next year for a higher education course. For me, this [ESL] course was vital," he said.

Victorian TAFE Association executive director David Williams described the TAFE cuts as "absolutely immoral".

The cuts include $170 million in the removal of full service provider [FSP] funding for things such as counselling services, disability liaison officers and libraries.

"The government hopes that a substantial amount of [a further] $130 million can be recovered in increased student fees," Mr Williams said. Fees for government-subsidised diplomas would rise to between $3000 and $8500 a year at most TAFEs; the average probably $3500-$4000 a year.

The VTA had called for the annual $170 million FSP funding to be reinstated, but it was clear this would not happen, Mr Williams said.

LeadWest chief executive Anton Mayer told the meeting that Melbourne's west would bear the brunt of the cuts. He said the region historically had lower levels of year 12 completion.

"Unemployment is particularly high among people born in non-English-speaking countries at 10.6 per cent within the region."

A petition of more than 28,000 signatures against the cuts will be presented to State Parliament this week.

National Tertiary Education Union president and Friends of Victoria University spokesman Paul Adams said VU was the people's university and the TAFE cuts of about $40 million represented a quarter of VU's revenue.

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