Rockliff seeks uni answers from Pyne

TASMANIAN Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff has written to his federal counterpart expressing ``deep concern'' that planned higher education reforms may force the University of Tasmania to close campuses or limit courses.

The university estimates the move to deregulate the sector and cut the Commonwealth's contribution to student fees will cost it $30 million a year.

Mr Rockliff wrote to Education Minister Christopher Pyne after he met with UTAS vice-chancellor Peter Rathjen on Tuesday to discuss the impact of the Commonwealth's proposed changes. 

``I am concerned that this may result in UTAS needing to either focus more on teaching and less on research, or limit offerings in important courses such as science, engineering and agriculture, or indeed, limit campus locations,'' Mr Rockliff wrote in the letter.

``Any of these changes could likely drive students away from the state.''  

Mr Rockliff argued UTAS was a special case.  

``We are mindful that, unlike other states, we have a single higher education provider that, appropriately, seeks to provide a breadth of study that would otherwise not be available in Tasmania.'' 

``UTAS is playing a critical role in helping Tasmanians, particularly those from lower socio-economic backgrounds and from our regions, to gain the education they need to contribute to the long-term future of our state.''

Professor Rathjen briefed staff at the institution's Launceston campus yesterday as it considers how to deal with the ``profound impacts'' of the planned changes.  

The university is believed to be considering all options, including reducing the number of campuses in the state. 

Liberal Bass MHR Andrew Nikolic described the impact of changes to the government's higher education policy as ``pure speculation'', particularly the deregulation of university fees.


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