Macquarie U VC S Bruce Dowton’s welcome-back message tells returning staff “you will witness the acceleration of the campus redevelopment based upon several years of careful and deliberate planning.” It is not clear if he means this as an observation or instruction. But what is obvious is that money is being spent. According to the university’s 2016 annual report A$1bn “has recently been invested so our students and staff can thrive in an environment that is inspiring … ”
Serious money indeed, which may account for the NSW Audit Office reporting that in 2016 MU had the highest debt to equity per centage – 17.3 per cent – of all the state’s universities. (UNSW had the lowest at around 1 per cent.) MU also had the lowest interest coverage ratio, 7.2 times, “reflecting its higher level of debt.”
This may be why Professor Dowton’s welcome also mentions the federal government’s MYEFO changes (freezing grant funding for two years and ending the demand driven system).
“I am already working with the executive group on modulating our response to those policy changes as the regulatory environment has shifted. We will be examining structural issues in the budget assumptions to which we have become accustomed and will focus on how to chart a pathway through these changes while staying true to our purpose as a university of service and engagement,” he writes
For those who worry “chart a pathway” signals a search for savings the VC’s was not so welcoming a welcome.