Uni crisis: fees, courses under microscope

University of Tasmania vice-chancellor Peter Rathjen.
University of Tasmania vice-chancellor Peter Rathjen.

THE University of Tasmania has flagged raising student fees, slashing courses and abandoning research as it attempts to deal with the ``profound impacts'' of deregulation.

The university has been left reeling by what vice-chancellor Peter Rathjen described as ``surprise'' reforms to higher education. 

Early modelling done by the university puts the impact of the federal government's planned changes at a $30 million annual loss. 

In an email to university staff and students on Friday, Professor Rathjen outlined the difficulty the university would now face delivering on its mission to provide a world-class university that was accessible to as many Tasmanians as possible.

``The ability to recoup those reductions in revenue through fee premiums may be limited by the economic circumstances of the island,'' he said. 

Professor Rathjen said the university would be forced to re-evaluate its mission and decide which of its goals would be ``diminished or abandoned''.

``Those subjects that we do not teach, the research that we do not conduct, or the social programs that we do not support are unlikely to be replaced easily by other providers.'' 

Professor Rathjen will brief Launceston staff today after speaking to Hobart staff yesterday. 

The university is still assessing the full impact of the government's planned overhaul and how it will respond.

 The Examiner  understands all options are on the table, with the university not ruling out campus closures.

National Tertiary Education Union Tasmanian secretary John Kenny said there remained a high level of uncertainty after yesterday's briefing.

Under changes to university funding, the federal government will reduce its contribution to course fees by 20 per cent and allow universities to decide how much to charge students.

Labor and the Greens have vowed to vote against the legislation in the Senate. 

Tasmanian Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said UTAS was especially vulnerable to the government's attack.

``Not only is the University of Tasmania the biggest employer in Launceston, whose foreign and interstate students bring in millions of dollars to our economy, it is the key to unlocking the region's economic development potential,'' Senator Whish-Wilson said. 

Tasmanian Labor Senator Carol Brown agreed. 

``The cuts by the Abbott government to UTAS will mean that Tasmanian students will have to pay more to make up for these brutal cuts,'' Senator Brown said. 

``I am also fearful that as well as cutting courses, UTAS may have to slash staff and cut funding for important research projects.''


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