Uni Tasmania plans to grow and change – the growth will come from major campus developments in Launceston and moving the Hobart campus from its long-time location in suburban Sandy Bay to the CBD – a project which will take a decade and cost a projected $500m.

This contrasts with a radical restructuring of courses on-offer and a cancelled pay rise last year at the height of the COVID-19 crisis.

The university’s annual report is not yet published but the 2020 financial statement demonstrate the university’s position.

All up, Uni Tasmania’s university financial statements for 2020 indicate a healthy balance sheet and profit and loss, with cash flows statement recording a positive $52 million.

In detail,

* the downturn in international student fees was $10.5 million

* the loss on investment income was $71 million.

* net cash and cash equivalents at EOFY was nearly $50m, a 220 per cent increase over 2019. * borrowings decreased by nearly $6m

* investments and other financial assets were nearly $0.5 billion.

The Uni Tasmania Group held investments totalling $400.16m at December 31 2020 recognised at fair value. A significant investment portfolio is managed by an investment manager and is held in managed funds. Although most funds are invested in listed equities or listed equity investments, these funds invest in varied investment categories.

A development to note is the establishment of an off-balance sheet subsidiary UTAS Properties Pty Ltd, which was established on 10 October 2019, for the selling the current campus and rebuilding a new campus in the Hobart CBD and Launceston, (see CMM July 22 2021).

Turning to staff numbers, in 2019 total headcount was 7,608, with a casualisation rate of 63.2 per cent. casuals. Last year headcount was down 1128 to 6,480, with 58,79 per cent casuals, as reported in the federal charities commission report.

A development is setting up an off-balance sheet subsidiary UTAS Properties Pty Ltd, which was established on 10 October 2019 for the selling the current campus and rebuilding a new campus in the Hobart CBD and Launceston, (CMM July 22 2021).

Turning to executive salaries, Vice Chancellor Rufus Black was appointed in March 2018, and his reported salary in 2019 was just under $1m, calculated as remuneration as an executive officer and council member.

The Tasmanian premier is paid $300,000 a year, and last year the U Tas senior executive team, included six members who received more than the premier.

Concerning student accommodation, the university appears to have invested heavily in buying suitable properties and engaging in several public-private partnerships (Purpose Built Student Accommodation). The carrying amount was $145 million. The remaining term of this arrangement is 27 years and the income is to be recognised over the arrangement term.  There was also an event after balanced day, a contract for another Purpose-Built Student Accommodation at 40-44 Melville Street, Hobart, settled on February 2 this year.

It would be interesting to know the financial risk of this and guarantees concerning student occupancies, especially as in 2019 the university had 36,484 students enrolled, 6,644 (18.2 per cent) being internationals.

Uni Tasmania states its activities consisted of learning and teaching, research, knowledge transfer and research training, community engagement, and activities incidental to undertaking the above-mentioned educational activities.

However, the university also has a property development business and is a financial institution with significant amounts of money under investments.

This is a common business model in Australian public universities, which have been reshaped under the influence of market rationality and which continue to use a discredited business model, reduce faculty to contract labour, and position students primarily as customers.

Against the increasing corporatisation of higher education, the Australian people need to reclaim education as crucial to the project of democratisation, educating students to be willing and able to engage the relationship between equality and social justice as fundamental to public life and provide the conditions for educators to connect their teaching to broader social issues. That is claiming Australian public universities, not as commercial business but as a public good. As the University of Tasmania Act 1992, (version current from January 1 2013 to date (accessed July 22 2021 at 13:57) states its functions.

(a) to advance, transmit and preserve knowledge and learning;

(b) to encourage and undertake research;

(c) to promote and sustain teaching and research to international standards of excellence;

(d) to encourage and provide opportunities for students and staff to develop and apply their knowledge and skills;

(e) to provide educational and research facilities appropriate to its other functions;

(f) to promote access to higher education having regard to principles of merit and equity;

(fa) to foster or promote the commercialisation of any intellectual property;

(g) to engage in activities which promote the social, cultural and economic welfare of the community and to make available for those purposes the resources of the University.

Distinguished Professor James Guthrie AM, Macquarie U Business School



University of Tasmania university annual financial statements report 2020, U Tas annual report 2019, U Tas Charities Commission report, Tasmania Auditor-General report on U Tas, U Tas mission statement, U Tas enabling legislation


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