Tim Winkler (CMM HERE ) is right to criticise much of the response to Tasmania’s Legislative Council inquiry into governance of the state’s university – but he misses the two most concerning issues.

First, the risks inherent in moving from Sandy Bay to the city: The university has raised $350m via a bond, to fund the CBD development. But servicing the debt will eat into core profit. In the absence of significantly increasing international student numbers U Tas will have to fund the project from property development at Sandy Bay. Get this right and it will fund the university in perpetuity but it will take decades to realise and perhaps $100s of millions more in capital expenditure. The university also needs to deal with residents – the most powerful and oppositional demographic in the city. The interest on the debt is certain, the success of the property play is not.

If it goes wrong the state government will have to bail the university out

But the immediate impact of this strategy is the possibility of cost cutting – with reductions of junior staff who are easier to remove. The Level E academics  are still there, but when they retire in five years, the danger is there will be no one coming through behind them. The university could end up with architecture award winning buildings in town and no one teaching and researching in them.

Second, the risk to the university’s reputation   – Winkler addresses this, suggesting “the Inquiry should be inundated with submissions from the wider community,” – it isn’t.

But the problem is bigger than the university’s disconnect from community members who it thinks will benefit from the city-move. It is a real struggle to get many Tasmanians to even think about they, or family members, going to university.

The controversy and bad press surrounding the move is actively working against efforts to get more locals to come to uni. The controversy will do long-term damage to the participation rates we so desperately need to increase.


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