The freeze of student places on last year’s level has created a problem for Greg Hill. The University of the Sunshine Coast VC says there is federal infrastructure funding for a new campus at Petrie, based on the university’s capacity to repay a loan – but the freeze means there can be no federally funded students for a new installation for at least two years. “If there is not a guaranteed number of places to pay the bills, there is not much point,” he says.
Professor Hill says he hopes this is “an unintended consequence” of the government’s decision. But even if it is, it is not the only one. The freeze will also affect USC’s takeover of QUT’s Caboolture campus, where it had no students enrolled this year. And at Hervey Bay it will enrol its first third year’s next year, students who will not be funded under the new proposal, with the university committed to a 2018 first-year intake there.
And it’s not just the university that will cop unintended consequences. USC catchments, Caboolture and Moreton Bay and the Fraser Coast have the lowest proportions of degree-qualified 21-34 year olds in the country. “It’s not life or death for us if we do not build Petrie for a couple of years, but the community has great expectations,” Professor Hill says.
Professor Hill is also chair of the Regional Universities network and he says its members face similar problems with investments made to increase education access in communities that are based on demand driven funding, which the government dropped at Christmas.
And while the freeze on places is only for two years he wonders how future student growth will be allocated. “We could be going back to the days of compacts and special deals, I am not looking forward to returning.”