Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Uni Funding Crisis USC Future Plans Uncertain

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Uni Funding Crisis USC Future Plans Uncertain

Article excerpt

SCOTT

SAWYER

scott.sawyer@scnews.com.au

EXCLUSIVE: Bean counters at the University of the Sunshine Coast will be working overtime as the institution races to find savings of up to $21 million over the next two years.

The search for budget savings comes as the full impact is realised of a Federal Government freeze on enrolment-based funding, in its bid to make about $2.2 billion worth of savings.

USC Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Hill said the university now faced juggling its expansion plans and a roll-out of increased courses against a much-tightened budget, with "everything" to be considered to avoid the Coast's university running into debt.

The funding freeze of a government subsidy for Commonwealth-Supported Places was announced as part of the Federal Government's mid-year economic update in December, 2017, capping the amount of money the Federal Government provided to universities for undergraduate students at 2017 levels.

Regional Universities Network executive director Dr Caroline Perkins confirmed the measures would hit regional unis hardest, especially those looking to expand or increase the variety of courses offered.

The University of the Sunshine Coast's future plans for a massive Moreton Bay expansion, a recent foray into Caboolture, programs at its Fraser Coast campus and its newly-created Bachelor of Medical Science pathway program were now suddenly clouded.

Prof Hill said their budget had been calculated assuming cuts of about $8 million for 2018 and 2019, but at best they were now facing cuts of about $15 million, at worst up to $21 million.

Negotiations were ongoing with Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham and Prof Hill said Federal MP for Fisher Andrew Wallace had been supporting the university in its bid to have its special circumstances acknowledged.

Prof Hill said student placements had been secured for the Moreton Bay campus at Petrie, but the project's construction timeframe was unclear as loan negotiations continued.

He said the latest offer meant the university would begin paying back its $121 million Federal Government loan as soon as it drew on the funds, but given the budget restrictions, making repayments before students were enrolled was near impossible. …

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