Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Twitter political power? Is it for real?

I am testing out the power of twitter regarding political engagement. I know that the Prime Minister very nicely allowed himself to be questioned by young people on QandA last night. I didn't watch it because I was out engaging with my own community here in Bundaberg in a cultural activity.

However, at work today I discovered a problem. It goes like this (and bear with me if you already know this). Commonwealth Scholarships for undergraduate students have always been administered by the various tertiary institutions around the country. For example if a student is applying to CQUniversity for their undergraduate degree they would have also made their Commonwealth Scholarship application to CQUniversity. At the end of last year we were notified by our Student Support Centre that this would no longer be the case and that all such applications would be administered through Centrelink. I work in a preparatory program where access to scholarships is often absolutely vital for our students to be able to continue on to university. Often they are mature age students, first in their family to attend university, supporting children and loved ones. We all know university is expensive so sometimes the Commonwealth scholarships made all the difference between them being able to buy books etc and not, as well as many other things. Our university is not in a metropolitan area. It is smack bang in the middle of a so-called "low socio-economic area". I know it is neglectful of me, seeing that I work in the sector, but I haven't read the Bradley review. I've been busy, teaching the very students that I understand the review of the tertiary education sector is trying to encourage to enter higher education. Let's throw around words like "social inclusion" and dare I say it, "working families". I spend my days teaching and encouraging students that university can be for them even though they may never have considered such an option before. So today, I discover that the Commonwealth Scholarships are at present seemingly being administered by no-one because the Senate failed to pass the Government's bill late last year. The University no longer controls the scholarships, and Centrelink professes to know nothing about it at all. Apparently we are now in limbo land of waiting until April when the bill goes back to Parliament. That's all very well and good, but what about the students who want to apply to for government support now...at the beginning of the academic year. It would seem to me to be the ideal time to have such scholarships available. But then what I would I know. I'm just a youngish woman with a PhD coordinating a preparatory program in a regional centre, trying to do the best she can for her students.

So what's twitter got to do with all this? Well today I bit the proverbial bullet and started following our PM. I have tweeted numerous times asking questions about the issue I have outlined here. I'd like to think that if politicians are serious about the vitality of their engagement with social media that I might get a response...sometime...soon. I don't mind if it's telling me I'm an idealistic nitwit. A response will prove to me that at least the Prime Minister might be seriously engaged with twitter rather than simply using it to comment on the cricket.

N.B. If I have got this all wrong I quite happy to be told so. I have had perhaps half an hour this afternoon to spend looking into this. For the rest of the day I was busy interviewing students for our 2010 preparatory program, providing them with the opportunity to move on and change their lives through higher education. But you, know, whatever.

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