A BACKLASH is building against the state government's drastic TAFE funding cuts that will leave Victoria University with a $32million shortfall next year.
Students taking part in a protest at VU's St Albans campus on Thursday called on the government to reverse the $300 million cuts that are forcing the closure of hundreds of courses and threatening up to 2000 teaching jobs.
Youth work student Damien Begg said TAFE colleges were already losing experienced staff. "The biggest impact on students is that fees will rise. The government is pushing towards privatisation and it will be students from lower socio-economic levels most affected."
Mr Begg said students, who had collected hundreds of signatures on a petition, would keep pressuring the government to reverse its decision.
The petition will be presented to the government at a later date.
Deputy vice-chancellor Professor Anne Jones said VU had been taken by surprise by the size of the cuts and was forced to drop courses such as animal studies and tourism.
Williamstown Labor MP Wade Noonan said he was appalled by the decision to slash funding.
"We're looking at 50 staff to go initially and 30 to 40 courses to go with it. This is gutting TAFEs and some of the biggest losers will be those seeking skills training as well as employers in Melbourne's west."
Mr Noonan said the "single largest cuts in the history of TAFE" could lead to further job losses at the end of the year.
Western Metropolitan Liberal MP Andrew Elsbury said a tough state budget meant there needed to be a restructure of the TAFE system.
"We want to make sure TAFE is about providing vocational training, providing people with the opportunity to get work by getting the qualifications they need for work," he said.
"We're confident that will still happen under the new arrangements. Certainly TAFEs are going to have to become competitive in providing the courses they do."
But opposition education spokesman Steve Herbert said it was extraordinary that cuts were being made in the midst of a jobs crisis. "As more jobs are being lost, Victorians need to have access to services that can provide training and skills."