The University of Western Sydney, one of Australia's largest universities, admitted it was forced to bury an estimated 10,000 books, including many rare editions, because it lacked the funding to pay for storage costs.
University administrators said government funding cuts left them with no option but to bury the books next to a cricket field five years ago. Among the books buried were first editions and rare 100-year-old texts.
Vice-chancellor Janice Reid said the university receives about 50 per cent less funding per student than other institutions in Australia.
"There is no doubt that we have always been underfunded in comparison with older and far wealthier universities in the city's east," she said.
Funding cutbacks also mean larger class sizes and inadequate facilities for students. Faculty also face cramped conditions with as many as seven lecturers forced to share an office designed for one.
"Students often don't have a chair and table to sit at," said student union spokesperson Daney Faddoul.
Carolyn Allport, president of the National Tertiary Education Union, said the government has to increase funding for higher education in its upcoming budget.
"The damage done to higher education by the government cannot be easily undone," Allport said. "Action is required now. We cannot wait any longer to begin reinvesting."
Meanwhile, university officials say the books that have been unearthed cannot be salvaged.
"They are not in great shape," a university spokesperson said.