Vice Chancellor Ian Young began a dialogue this morning with students who were peacefully protesting against the deregulation of universities.

The dialogue began as the tradesmen were drilling security cameras into the wall opposite the entrance of the Chancelry, where the protesters are currently staging a one-week “read-in”. Young joked, perhaps too soon, that they were trying to “make things more difficult” for the students protesting.

For 45 minutes, Young answered some of the questions concerning his support for the deregulation of universities. During the dialogue, the Vice Chancellor made it clear that he has being trying, for some twenty years, to encourage governments, both liberal and labor, to put more funding towards universities. However, Young held that it had been to no avail, which has led him to the opinion that the deregulation of universities would be the next best option for the Australian National University.

Ian Young spoke about the specialisation of universities and admitted that he thought that some universities, in particular the Group of Eight universities, will benefit more than other university institutions.

It’s obvious that the Group of Eight supports this and there is a reason why. The group of eight with all be significant beneficiaries out of this.”

The Vice Chancellor defended the creation of more differentiated institutions, by saying that there would be a broader range of educational institutions that will offer different services at a different price. In particular, Young alluded to the fact that the Australian National University wanted to focus on research. Young stated  “we should be funding excellence where excellence exists around research rather than spreading the money thinly across the nation.”

Louis Klee, who started the “read-in” protest yesterday, has already caused positive waves on and off campus.

Part of the initial aim of the whole thing was just to get people talking and start a conversation about it [deregulation] and its great that Ian Young joined that.”

Klee also made comments about how he was pleased with the attention that the protest has received.

The media has been presenting the a-political as a neutral positive space and the political as a negative space that you enter when you are doing things like protesting, whereas the a-political is everything else. That logic really demonises protests and people are scared to articulate concerns that they have a lot of the time because they don’t want to be seen as political.  That’s always been a concern I have had. Partially I am concerned about these changes but I hope that we can encourage people to get a gateway in [to the political debate],” he said.

ANU Student’s Association President Cam Wilson was also present for the dialogue between Young and the readers and stated,that it was a really great step forward for Ian to come and finally consult students about deregulation.

I think Ian needed to engage with students and there has been public pressure for that, its been shown that not just radical students are interested and that it’s all kind of students. I think that was really something that influenced his decision,” Wilson said.

The dialogue signified a development towards universities communicating with their current students on issues relating to the institutions. To continue on with this dialogue the Vice Chancellor will speak publicly on a panel organised by Woroni about the issues facing the Australian National University at Coombs Lecture Theature on Monday the 2nd of June at 6pm. Other panelists include the University of Canberra Vice Chancellor Stephen Parker, Senator Kate Lundy, Senator Zed Seselja, Professor of Economics at UC Phil Lewis , Professor Bruce Campbell at Crawford School of Policy, and ANU Student Association President Cam Wilson.