A group of TAFE Illawarra arts students will catch the train to Sydney this morning to join colleagues across the state in a protest against cuts to courses.
Save TAFE Illawarra chairwoman Ann Clarke said hundreds of students from around NSW were expected to join the midday march from the Domain to State Parliament, where they would present the Save Art in TAFE petition containing more than 12,000 signatures.
In September the state government announced that fine arts courses, including sculpture, visual art and ceramics, would only be offered by TAFE NSW on a fee-for-service basis from 2013.
Ms Clarke said students would ask the government to restore funding to these courses.
"We are taking this action because the state government has chosen to cut all funding to TAFE art courses in 2013, except for digital imaging and Aboriginal art," she said. "The art students feel that the government is unfairly targeting them ahead of all other students and that they are being treated callously by TAFE management.
"[Illawarra TAFE management] still cannot advise us which courses will be offered and their cost for next year yet enrolments are about to start and courses for this year will finish in two weeks."
Ms Clarke said student loans would be available, but students will then have massive debts at the end of their courses.
"Of all the art courses that are usually offered at TAFE, only the diploma and advanced diploma courses will be eligible for HECs-like student loans to cover the course fees which could be anywhere from $8000 to $10,000 per year of study," she said.
"Every other course will have to be paid for upfront by the students. Students who will incur fees of around $16,000 to $24,000 for two years of study at TAFE would no doubt think twice about continuing on to university where they would incur another big debt."
Ms Clarke said the government's recently announced Smart and Skilled reforms - which will see TAFE colleges forced to compete for funding with private providers from 2014 - would further denigrate the public system.
"The community needs to be made aware that what is happening to art in TAFE in 2013 will be rolled out to most TAFE courses in 2014," she said.