About 20 National Tertiary Education Union members protested outside of federal Education Minister Dan Tehan's Kepler Street office on Thursday, demanding a support package for universities.
As part of the NTEU's National Day of Action, members demanded the sector be looked after during and after the coronavirus pandemic.
The NTEU says the the government has presented a decision to not cut current funding as a bailout, offered no solution for a $5 billion funding shortfall in the sector and offered no support for struggling international students. But Mr Tehan defended the actions his government had already taken.
"The federal government has guaranteed universities over $18 billion in funding for this year which equates to more than 50 per cent of their revenue," Mr Tehan said.
"This was the number one request put to the government by the sector to help them manage the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
If the NTEU is serious about helping the sector manage the impact of the coronavirus pandemic it should focus on working with universities to provide more flexibility in workplace arrangements.Dan Tehan
The union also suggested the government had failed to recognise the role higher education would play in rebuilding the economy and had blocked the sector from JobKeeper payments three times
NTEU Victorian secretary Melissa Slee said the sector was "in shock" over Mr Tehan's actions in what it perceives to be lacking in support.
"Rather than step in to offer assistance, Dan Tehan and the Scott Morrison government have changed the JobKeeper criteria three times to specifically block universities from being eligible," Dr Slee said. "A $5 billion shortfall will cost up to 30,000 jobs across the sector. At particular risk are regional campuses like the Deakin Warrnambool campus. Saving universities is an important part of supporting regional communities."
The Victorian government has announced a $350 million Victorian Higher Education State Investment Fund to support universities with capital works, applied research and research partnerships.
"This is very welcome support," Dr Slee said. "Now we need the federal government to step up and take responsibility."
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