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Fail result: government axes UC, CIT proposal


Emma Macdonald

University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Parker has slammed the project as a waste of time.

University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Parker has slammed the project as a waste of time. Photo: Karleen Minney

The planned co-operation between the University of Canberra and Canberra Institute of Technology through a separate training institution has been abandoned.

ACT Education Minister Chris Bourke finally canned the proposal to run associate degrees and diplomas through the ''University of Canberra Institute of Technology'' late yesterday - having placed planning processes on hold last month in order to pursue a separate $28 million deal with the Commonwealth for vocational and educational training reforms.

Under pressure from the ACT Greens to reveal details of the new institution by this week, Dr Bourke confirmed suspicions the deal was off when he announced, ''Any further work on collaboration between UC and CIT will not happen in the term of this Assembly and will depend on first implementing these VET reforms in the ACT.''

''We now have an opportunity to invest $28 million to build a stronger VET sector in the ACT through the CIT,'' he said.

While the CIT is expected to take a sizeable share of the $28 million VET funding allocated last month through the Council of Australian Governments meeting, a separate pool of $25.9 million in structural adjustment funding allocated to the UC will need to be renegotiated.

Vice-chancellor Stephen Parker was exasperated with the process.

''From the university's point of view I feel we have wasted a lot of time and energy,'' he said.

The UCIT was an 11th-hour compromise deal which came out of last year's review of the ACT's tertiary and training sectors conducted by Emeritus Professor Denise Bradley.

Professor Bradley recommended a full merger of the UC and CIT, warning both faced significant threats in the new marketplace.

Professor Parker said the ACT government had completely ignored Professor Bradley's advice ''and the same long-term issues Denise Bradley highlighted for the ACT have not gone away''.

These included the fact that the ACT was a small jurisdiction which couldn't offer the full suite of tertiary or training options and would lose students to interstate institutions.

Professor Parker said he was somewhat relieved the ACT government had finally made a decision and UC was putting the UCIT proposal behind it.

''We have been working with the Commonwealth over the past few weeks on a revised project, the Commonwealth has been constructive and I am optimistic about the outcome,'' Professor Parker said.

But he would not comment further on whether the new project was his plan for the UC to operate its own polytechnic - which was in the pipeline before the UCIT deal coming up - or whether it was a new arrangement.

CIT chief executive Adrian Marron said it seemed a sensible conclusion to abandon the UCIT given the territory had signed up, to considerable vocational education and training reforms through the National Partnership Agreement.

These reforms include the development and implementation of income contingent loans as well as a national training entitlement, all within a more open market.

''We have a lot that we need to get right,'' Mr Marron said.

He said collaboration between the UC and CIT on many courses would continue.

The National Tertiary Education Union's ACT division secretary Stephen Darwin said the ACT could breathe a sigh of relief following the decision.

''This ill-fated proposal for a third institution was a poorly conceived bureaucratic compromise that never was based on any clear educational foundation. It had the potential of weakening the higher education offered by the University of Canberra and the vocational education offered by CIT,'' Mr Darwin said.

He praised the Greens for scrutinising the proposal in the Assembly.

Liberal education spokesman Steve Doszpot said the failed venture was ''another example of a poorly managed Labor project which has kept the community, the Assembly and most importantly the teaching staff and students of both institutions in the dark.''

14 comments so far

  • Funny that VC Parker has finally come to his senses finding the proposal a 'waste of time'

    Perhaps VC Parker should focus on the university itself as opposed to these little pet projects... perhaps VC Parker should focus on courses already offered instead of kicking them into a corner and leaving them... i.e. law, journalism...

    Underfunding faculties is a bad choice... focusing on silly pet projects is even worse. VC Parker's heart is with the ANU VC job...

    Date and time
    May 02, 2012, 10:05AM
    • Law? that ATAR jumped nearly 5 points this year (demand is up). Journalism? dying course.

      This was not a "silly pet project". The proposed merger would have been a great opportunity for the University to compete with larger institutions around Australia.

      The partner-ship / 3rd entitty proposal would have also given UC a significant slice of CIT's core business without lifting a finger. Hardly poor outcomes or silly projects to waste time on.

      At the end of the day, the Federal government has de-regulated the tertiary education market. Uni's can now offer certain levels of VET courses and TAFE's can likewise offer certain AQF levels previously found only in Uni's.

      Uni's are a business, what is wrong with pursuing growth opportunities? ANU runs its community education programs, and has publically targetted a growth in student numbers slightly above the ACT's population growth.

      Give credit where credit is due. Parker and the Council managed the situation extremely well in a fluid and unpredictable political climate in a process run entirely by the ACT Government who can, on whim, ammend the statute that establishes UC in anyway they see fit.

      Fingers cross the poly now goes full steam ahead. I'd back a UC-poly to snaffle key overseas VET students (and eventually domestic students) over CIT in the medium to long term any day.

      Date and time
      May 02, 2012, 1:14PM
  • How much has this government wasted on consultants and then canned a deal or community backlash has stopped a deal. I know where mayor Quimby gets his material. By the way does this mean the brumbies will be cut in half.

    Date and time
    May 02, 2012, 10:10AM
    • Good point. Two reviews, one recommendation. Get community feedback. Get stakeholder feedback. Annnounce decision not even contempalted by the reviews. Backflip. JOKE.

      If the ACT Government is serious about education they should just allow UC to take over CIT. Period.

      Date and time
      May 02, 2012, 1:16PM
  • A pity the original recommendations were ignored for a full merger. UC would of had the critical mass to compete against other Universities. Now UC keeps its place as Australias 4th smallest University and given the funding changes, may over time sink in the face of market competition.

    Date and time
    May 02, 2012, 10:56AM
    • Agree it was a wasted opporunity, but disagree about sinking. Signs so far are promising: record research revenue, stable or rising ATAR's in most courses (law went up 5 points this year, compare to the other NSW law schools who either stayed the same or dropped), stable student population are rapid growth, new facilities coming on line... all good.

      No wonder ANU wanted to copy UC and cut 150 not-needed administration staff. Pity Young backed down on that one....

      Date and time
      May 02, 2012, 1:18PM
  • The full merger would have proceeded had Parker managed it sensibly. Compare his performance with Central Queensland University vice chancellor Professor Scott Bowman's management of negotiations to merge with the Central Queensland Institute of Tafe.

    Gavin Moodie
    Date and time
    May 02, 2012, 11:17AM
    • That's a fairly ignorant statement Gavin. Parker and the Council managed it very sensibly. They provided a statement of principles the the ACT government under which they would have supported a merger, knowing full well that as UC is established by an ACT statute there was nothing to stop the ACT Government ignoring what they wanted and setting up a new institution.

      Parker cooperated fully with the ACT Government at all stages of this debacle, all the time keeping a firm eye on the universities best interests. I agree with the view that was put at the time by the Council and Parker: a merger was a good idea, but the merged entity would be a University and UC should have been the main driver. That's how it HAS worked elsewhere in Australia.

      Another correction: there were never any NEGOTIATIONS between CIT, UC and the ACT government on the issue. It never got that far.

      The 3rd entity wasn't to bad an idea and would have given UC the lions slice of CIT's core business. If it had happened it would have been a great outcome for UC. How is that a poor reflection on Parker?

      The facts are that UC has improved its financial position, its research funding, its rankings and almost every metric you measure a university by under Parkers leadership.

      Give credit where credit is due. Parker managed the "merger" the best anyone could have in a fluid, unstable political position run by the ACT government.

      Date and time
      May 02, 2012, 1:08PM
  • It was a bad plan, poorly justified with amateur execution

    Spin Sick
    Date and time
    May 02, 2012, 12:39PM
    • It was certainly less ideal than a full merger, espeically a full merger under the control of UC.

      Date and time
      May 02, 2012, 2:33PM

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