Cash-hit university buried old books to save room

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One of Australia's biggest universities admitted yesterday that it had buried 10,000 books, including rare and antique editions, in its grounds because it could not afford storage costs.

One of Australia's biggest universities admitted yesterday that it had buried 10,000 books, including rare and antique editions, in its grounds because it could not afford storage costs.

The University of Western Sydney said funding cutbacks had forced it to take the extraordinary step five years ago of interring the books next to a cricket oval. Students who have helped to dig them up say among them are first editions and rare 100-year-old works.

The university has been under considerable financial pressures because its student population has increased four-fold, to 30,000, since it was established in 1989.

A former librarian took the decision to bury the books, which included works of literature and physics, history and mathematics textbooks. But a spokesman said that responsibility was not clear. "Instead of storing them, which would have been most appropriate, some idiot got rid of surplus books by burying them."

The vice-chancellor, Janice Reid, said that the university was given up to 50 per cent less funding per student than other institutions. "There is no doubt we have always been under-funded in comparison with older and far wealthier universities in the city's east," she said.

The financial problems also mean students have to endure crowded lectures and tutorials, as well as lengthy queues to use photocopiers. Lecturers face cramped conditions, with, in one case, seven shoehorned into a law faculty office designed for one person.

The vice-president of the student union, Daney Faddoul, said: "Students often don't have a chair and table to sit at.We have tutorials with up to 50 people in the classes. Therehad been an agreement there could be up to 25 students intutorials."

The unearthed books are no longer of practical use. "They are not in great shape," the university spokesman said.

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