Coffs Coast Business, Local

Job losses inevitable at SCU says Vice Chancellor

The head of Southern Cross University (SCU) says job losses are inevitable as it grapples with a “best-case” funding shortfall of around $40 million.

By Bronwyn Herbert

Key points:

  • There are calls for staff to forego wage increases to save $6 million
  • Senior staff have agreed to a pay freeze
  • The university is replacing semesters with six study blocks

Vice-chancellor Adam Shoemaker had previously raised concerns about a $58 million shortfall, but that was revised down today.

Southern Cross University vice-chancellor Adam Shoemaker says the university needs to address its budget shortfall now.(ABC Gold Coast: Michelle Rafferty)

During an online meeting with 880 staff yesterday, the vice-chancellor asked them to forego the next two wage increases and to voluntarily reduce their workload.

He said those measures would save the institution almost $6 million.

“That’s 50 to 60 jobs right there,” Professor Shoemaker said.

He also hinted at a streamlining of future courses to make the university more viable.

The university has campuses at Coffs Harbour, Gold Coast and Lismore.

Union wants ‘creative’ solutions

National Tertiary Education Union SCU branch president Kate Mitchell said management should be more creative in its thinking on the issue.

“They’ve only had one meeting with the union and at that meeting the only suggestion that they had was to simply take pay rises away,” she said.

“What about deferring those pay rises to a couple of years hence? What about looking at how the situation is halfway through next year?

“For someone on a lower wage, and there are a lot of people in that area, a 10 per cent drop is a lot.

“It makes the difference between them having a reasonable standard of living to just scraping by.”

Students exhaust $500,000 hardship fund

Professor Shoemaker told the meeting 113 senior staff, including executives, had already agreed to a pay freeze and many had donated money to a student-hardship fund.

He said the fund, which had $500,000 in April, was exhausted within a fortnight.

“Students are doing it really tough,” Professor Shoemaker said.

“Think of all the part-time jobs that don’t exist in hospitality, tourism, restaurants, and that was used up in two weeks,”

New-look teaching model

The University confirmed it would be introducing a new academic model.

There will no longer be semesters, but six study blocks throughout 48 weeks of the year.

The law and engineering faculties will trial the new model from 2021.

The university’s vice-chancellor said that during COVID-19 pandemic, the institution had offered study opportunities to people recently made unemployed.

“We are teaching $4.7 million worth of students at a discount or for free,” he said.

University shuts Liverpool football academy

Young football players from the Southern Cross University academy huddle on the field with their coach
The football academy linked with the Liverpool club was costing the university over $500,000 a year.(Supplied)

Southern Cross University says it made the sad decision to close its Liverpool Academy football training centre in Lismore, which had seen 1,500 Northern Rivers players participate in the past five years.

Professor Shoemaker said the priority to fund campus learning was too strong.

“It was something which was costing over half a million dollars a year to run and although it benefited young people, the core stuff of learning and teaching on campus, we just had to prioritise over that.”

Calls to increase student numbers

A white sign with 'Southern Cross University' surrounded by trees, grass and a path
Southern Cross University has campuses in Lismore, Coffs Harbour and the Gold Coast.(ABC North Coast: Leah White)

At the top of the SCU wish list is for the Federal Government to vary its cap on student numbers, particularly for regional universities.

Currently, Southern Cross University has the lowest cap of any regional university.

“If that was varied upwards, even in a small percentage way, it could be incredibly helpful for all universities,” Professor Shoemaker said.

“As a regional which doesn’t have the same endowments … as some of the big metro (universities) have, it would be life-changing.”

“Now is the time for the life-changing move, please do it.”

First published at The ABC – Wednesday 17 June 2020 and amended Wednesday 18 June. See; https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-17/southern-cross-university-vice-chancellor/12364410

One Comment

  1. It’s in the last couple of years of secondary school and in the universities, where our innovative and creative thinkers emerge. Regardless of the field of study, these thinkers are essential for the progression of our society. By placing economic barriers to university study for those who are financially disadvantaged, governments limit the numbers of progressive thinkers, and therefore the potential for social and economic growth.

    Free education, from the cradle to the grave, is the right of every Australian. I suggest that the process of education produces better people, and is therefore as valuable to our society as the economic outcomes of that education.

    The attitudes towards education of politicians in general, and conservative politicians in particular, are based upon two specific and ingrained beliefs.

    The first is that education generally, and university education specifically, is the province of only the upper class in society, those who will become the rulers. Education has the potential to reduce the class gap in our society, and that may in turn reduce the power of the wealthy to manipulate society to their own benefit.

    The second is that an educated society will be more inclined to be critical of the lies and obfuscation which are the politicians stock in trade, and more able to detect and name political corruption. An electorate educated to detect deceit presents enormous dangers to politicians. Imagine the outcome if a whole society, educated to call politicians to account, had reacted en masse to Morrison’s involvement in the Sports Rorts and Angus Taylor affairs. The calls for his sacking would have resounded across the nation, and he would have been immediately deposed by his own party.

    No politician wants to risk scrutiny by the electorate, so their mantra becomes “keep them dumb, and keep them guessing”. Defunding educational institutions is an ideal way to accomplish this.

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