ACT News


UC cuts courses, brings in paid parking in budget response

The University of Canberra is set to discontinue three language courses, introduce paid parking on campus, reduce the number of senior management positions and scrap plans for a civil engineering program in response to budget cuts in higher education funding.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Parker outlined the measures to staff and students on Friday afternoon, with models indicating the university is set to lose $8.3 million in funding over the next three years through the government's efficiency dividend.

Professor Parker announced the university was in talks with the Australian National University to enable its students of Chinese, Japanese and Spanish - all ''too small at UC to be viable'' - to take classes at ANU instead, one of a range of measures he said would not have ''any significant impact on students''.

In return, UC would open its doors to ANU students with guaranteed entry into its Graduate Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language, a course not offered by ANU, and possibly also its Master of Teaching program.

''I think it's an arrangement with mutual benefit,'' Professor Parker said. ''It does add more students to their existing languages which helps them, and it adds students to our Graduate Certificate in TESOL … so I would describe this as a sensible arrangement.''

The decision is likely to save $300,000 a year, but would affect up to six academic staff, something the National Tertiary Education Union said was ''very disappointing''.


''Some [of the] teachers have actually been recently rewarded by the university as highest quality teachers, so we think it's a great loss,'' said Stephen Darwin, the union's ACT division secretary, acknowledging the difficulty the efficiency dividend had placed on the University of Canberra.

''This underlines the fallacy that the federal budget portrayed that higher education funding's growth was being slowed, because we're now beginning to see in many Australian universities … some very serious cuts to important programs.

''When a university, in an Asian century, makes a decision to cut two critical Asian languages, then we're

really saying that these cuts are having a serious impact.''

Professor Parker said the languages in question had declining enrolments, and promoting Asian languages was a national issue, and ''not something that a single university can solve''.

The university will bring forward plans for paid parking on campus, committing to initially only recovering the true cost of providing parking - currently around $250,000 a year, but with projected expenditure of $2 million per year over the next few years to upgrade security and lighting.

While pricing and exemptions are still to be negotiated, Mr Darwin said it will be ''a major cost imposition'' on staff as well as students.

The cost-cutting measures will also lead to a reduction in senior management positions, and a pay freeze for staff on senior management contracts this year, which will save another $250,000, although Professor Parker announced a 2 per cent pay rise across all other staff, effective immediately, ''as a sign of confidence in UC's future''.

Other cost savings will come from scrapping plans to introduce a civil engineering program, as well as a proposal to share administration across some university research centres.