The University of Tasmania’s vice-chancellor has dismissed concerns about a Federal Government funding freeze, saying there would be no impact on students or teaching.
The ABC has obtained data that shows Australian universities hit by a Federal Government funding freeze will have to go without up to 15 per cent of their base funding.
The University of Tasmania (UTAS) was set to have received about $175 million more in base funding under pre-freeze policies.
Vice-chancellor Rufus Black said the university would be receiving the same level of funding as it had in the past.
“That amount of funding, at least for the University of Tasmania, I can’t speak for other universities, is quite sufficient to create all the education opportunities that we need here,” he said.
“We see no impact, no diminution of service to our students or to our teaching as a result of that funding freeze.”
Professor Black said the funding had been calculated based on forward projections of possible domestic student enrolments.
He said the university was now not expecting to have growth in overall undergraduate student numbers.
“Our main task is to grow our undergraduate Tasmanian student population,” he said.
“And if that means that we are trading off having a few less people from other parts because we are growing our Tasmanian population that, given the mission of this university, is something we are very comfortable with.”
Professor Black said the university community had been “thinking deeply about the idea of scale”.
“The view that has emerged from those conversations is that we need to be right-sized, but responsive to current and future needs,” he said.
“On that basis, we are comfortable we have the funding we need now to provide educational opportunities for Tasmania and serve the needs of the state.
“We’re putting a lot of time and energy into making sure we maintain ourselves as a university designed to serve the scale of the population with the scale of the funding that we’ve got.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who visited Hobart and Burnie today, said universities had the resources they needed.
“What we’ve seen over recent years is universities’ revenues from the Federal Government have been increasing much more rapidly — by about 15 per cent — than the cost of teaching at about 9 per cent,” he said.
“So the universities have been putting a lot of money away into salaries, into administration, into marketing, so what we’re saying is the universities should be taking that very substantial surplus they’ve been running at and put it into supporting students and teaching.”
UTAS will ‘cop it hard’
The assurances have not comforted the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU).
Kelvin Michael, the NTEU Tasmania division secretary, said the university would “cop it hard” under the funding freeze.
“Some of the outcomes that we’re most concerned about are potential threats to employment at the university,” he said.
“Our members will be concerned that one way that the university management might deal with this is through cutting jobs.
“There’s also potential for reductions in the quality of programs that are delivered if they’re not staffed to the appropriate degree.”