James Cook University has announced job losses and course cuts designed “to ensure the university is more responsive to changing student demand and is financially sustainable.”
“We know that the context in which JCU is operating is changing, impacted by increased competition, reduced student numbers, loss of external income sources including reduced Commonwealth funding, and a highly volatile and uncertain public policy environment. JCU needs to respond to these challenges,” Provost Chris Cocklin said Friday.
The university’s annual report states student debt has peaked, resulting in “pressures associated with maintaining student numbers.” JCU reported a $36m drop in revenue last year to $513m with debt up $32m to $101m.
The plan follows savings measures broadly outlined in an April proposal, notably effecting the division of tropical environments and societies. The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union has already contested that proposal in the Fair Work Commission but JCU is adamant that it could not consult on this new plan. “Given the nature of the changes proposed and the range of areas affected it was not practical or consistent with the University’s Enterprise Agreement to consult with staff prior to releasing the change proposal,” it stated yesterday.
JCU management now plans to:
* from 2019 teach –out in-person UG courses at the Cairns campus in psychology, sports-exercise science, exercise physiology and joint degree
* end the master of economics “due to low student demand” after existing students complete
* replace the bachelor degree in creative arts with a major in the BA
* create 11 new positions and make 16 Townsville positions and 13 in Cairns redundant
The university also intends to “increase delivery” of online courses and move IT education to the College of Science and Engineering.
The new change plan summarises staff concerns and responds to dozens of specific questions and suggestions. However while the university has heard, it explains in detail why it will not act on many of them.
And there is more to come. In response to an “enough already” comment on change fatigue, management states:
“The decisions made in the past have been based on different circumstances. We implemented a new structure in 2016 and now have the chance to refine it further. We will approach this implementation with a continuous improvement philosophy, meaning that as things are implemented and embedded they will be reviewed to ensure effectiveness.”
As for staff who are fearful for their jobs;
“The higher education sector is being impacted by sectoral and regional factors and changing student preferences. We are focused on creating an organisation that is more sustainable in this ever-changing operating context.”