Teaching Conditions are Our Learning Conditions

If 2024 is the beginning of your journey at Monash University, prepare for what is shaping up to be a year marked by significant industrial action.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) represents university workers of all types across Australia, advocating for safe and secure employment, and a brighter future for higher education. A well-supported university system, with staff in secure and well-compensated positions, is crucial for delivering quality education and leading-edge research.

In 2021, reports emerged that approximately 4,500 staff at Monash University, including around 3,100 current casuals and more than 1,400 former employees, were victims of wage theft, totaling over $10 million.

Wage theft in higher education manifests in several ways: being paid for fewer hours than worked, piece rates for marking or lecture preparation instead of actual time spent, and sham contracting to avoid Award and Agreement entitlements.

However, this problem extends beyond Monash. The unchecked corporate influence and lack of accountability in public universities have exacerbated the issue. Addressing this challenge is essential for the future of higher education nationwide.

It’s such a shame that two-thirds of Australian university staff are employed on insecure casual or fixed-term contracts, even though their work is often ongoing. Educators having to reapply for their positions every six months, regardless of their decades-long experience in the sector, highlights broader systemic issues.

In June 2022, the Monash University Enterprise Agreement expired and after more than a year of negotiations, it’s apparent that the University is not engaging in good faith. The NTEU is advocating for improved class sizes, leave entitlements, wages, job security, and work safety conditions. The University’s current offer is inadequate, leading to excessive workloads and a pay increase below the inflation rate, effectively a real pay cut.

The NTEU is committed to a better university, one focused on educational rather than business principles, and which prioritises the welfare of staff and students. Relying on a patchwork of contracts and multiple jobs to make ends meet is unsustainable. Ultimately, the quality of education suffers.

In October 2023, the Monash Branch of the NTEU engaged in a 48-hour strike, the most significant industrial action at the University in decades. Concurrently, University of Melbourne staff in the NTEU conducted a week-long, branch-wide strike. During these actions, NTEU members refrained from conducting classes, working, communicating with students, or planning lessons. If there’s one thing for sure, it’s that this is just the start of what will be a hard fought battle and it seems the NTEU are just getting started.


It’s no exaggeration to state that the Faculty of Information Technology (FIT) is in crisis. A few years ago, FIT committed to an “Education Transformation”. Many units in the handbook now have this subtle yet damning notice.

From my personal experience and discussions with many teaching staff, it appears this so-called transformation is a cost-cutting exercise disguised as reform, severely impacting teaching quality in the FIT. During the second semester of 2023, the FIT implemented widespread changes to teaching arrangements with little notice and no genuine consultation, causing major disruptions.

Despite being a surplus unit within the university and increasing profits by over $20 million from 2022 to 2023, more cuts to the FIT mean that these fees are not enhancing students’ educational experience. Instead, they are being used by the university to bolster their bottom line. Education should not be corporatised.

Under this “Education Transformation”, all tutorials and lectures have been abolished. The Faculty has shifted to “applied classes”, which don’t seem to offer robust pedagogical benefits. Teachers now receive half the preparation time they once did, only being paid for 30 minutes to prepare for a one-hour class. The time for marking assignments has also been drastically reduced. In a field like IT, where every line of code matters, insufficient grading time means students’ work risks being undermarked.

It’s been suggested to staff that they avoid consulting with students or answering their emails, ironically the same activities for which the university was previously caught not paying staff, under their wage theft scandal. This cost-cutting approach is directly affecting the FIT staff’s ability to teach effectively and the quality of education.

This has led to significant increases in teaching workloads for fixed-term and permanent academics in IT, who now face less time for student consultation and teaching preparation. Class sizes have increased, and there were reports last semester of overcrowding in some lecture rooms, with students sitting on stairs and floors in FIT applied classes, posing clear occupational health and safety risks.

The university implemented these changes without real consultation, reflecting a general reluctance of Monash managers to listen to staff feedback.

The NTEU issued a formal Dispute Notice over these changes and the lack of consultation. As the Union believes the Enterprise Agreement has been breached, both in terms of the lack of consultation and the teaching changes themselves.

In response, the university adopted a hostile stance. When the NTEU requested a meeting with the Dean of IT, Professor Ann Nicholson, she assured staff that everything was fine. However, Monash HR’s responses in meetings were dismissive, claiming these changes were part of a two-year-long “education transformation” (we all now know what this means). Staff involved in the transformation discussions contradict this, stating that the increased workloads and reduced preparation time were not part of the original discussions.

For students who experienced the quality of education before these changes, their university experience has deteriorated. However, those who are new to the institution will graduate with a lesser education, unaware of what they have missed.

Staff have said that enough is enough, and it’s time us students do too.


Dilhan Simsek

The author Dilhan Simsek

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