Health project critical for university

UNIVERSITY of Tasmania vice- chancellor Peter Rathjen has called for support from state and federal politicians to ensure the university's Northern Health Initiative gets off the ground.

The request comes after it was announced at the weekend $23 million of federal funding would be cut from the university over four years.

Professor Rathjen said the Northern Health Initiative was critical to ensuring the university's ongoing financial sustainability.

The initiative was first mooted in the lead-up to last year's federal election.

The project would see 15,000 square metres of infrastructure built at the university's Newnham campus.

A new precinct would include simulation and research labs, flexible and clinical teaching spaces, learning and information hubs and student facilities.

The facility has a price tag of about $83.5 million.

UTAS is pushing for both tiers of government to foot about half the bill for the development.

Professor Rathjen said profits generated through the program would help the university balance money lost in other areas, including funding research, offering a broad curriculum and operating campuses in three communities across the state.

Professor Rathjen said the "relatively modest up-front investment" would sure up the university's viability.

"What we're talking about is a short-term investment to build infrastructure that enables us to offer programs that can contribute to the ongoing financial sustainability of the university," he said.

"We need initiatives like Northern Health to make it possible for us to sustain a university that everyone wants us to be."

Professor Rathjen said the project would inject about $1.2 billion into the Tasmanian economy every year and was critical to the government doubling its intake of international students within five years.

"The current federal government is saying they want Australian universities to increase the number of fee-paying international students," he said.

"This is the program that we think can help us do that."

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd pledged $28 million over four years to fund the project.

The Coalition government did not commit to funding the project.

Bass Liberal MHR Andrew Nikolic said he would be prepared to facilitate any detailed proposal UTAS brought forward for government consideration.

"As Professor Rathjen himself has said, however, public funding is very challenging," Mr Nikolic said.

"This results from the fiscal nightmare we have been bequeathed by the former Labor government."


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