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University of Adelaide flags course cuts - students silent

By Malcolm King - posted Wednesday, 29 August 2012


While an earth tremor occasionally rumbles under the City of Churches, nothing could have prepared it for the shake up that the University of Adelaide is about to receive from its new Vice Chancellor Warren Bebbington.

In a paper called 'Towards 2024 – Choices for the University of Adelaide,' Professor Bebbington admitted the North Terrace Ivy Leaguer was not on track to meet its financial targets from next year.

"Over the coming five years our operating margin is projected to decline as the more rapid growth in our operating expenses eats in to our operating surplus," Professor Bebbington wrote.

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The university is facing a $230 million shortfall in funding planned developments over 2013-2017. No previous mention had been made in university annual reports of a projected short fall.

Just as the GFC hit in 2008, the university embarked on a massive $400 million capital building program, including the construction of the $100 million Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences building on North Terrace in the city.

It is understood that the university lost approximately one fifth of its investment portfolio in the stock market crash. This has been partly offset until recently by strong enrolment growth.

The university will almost certainly slash 'boutique' and under subscribed programs from the 150 it currently delivers.

Recently, about 150 students La Trobe University protested against the campus slashing 37 jobs with plans to cut hundreds of subjects from the humanities and social science departments including its religion and spirituality studies courses.

So far neither the National Tertiary Education Union or the Adelaide University student body has made a comment about possible subject cuts.

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This is odd as one doesn't need to be FR Leavis to read between the lines of the paper which flags one of the most radical overhauls of student course offerings in its history.

"Focusing on the student needs, as opposed to academics' specific interests should result in many universities streamlining their offers to avoid what has been dubbed elsewhere as 'vanity courses', those courses and programs taught by academics who are wedded to a topic and insensitive to the fact that few or no students share their enthusiasm for the subject matter," Professor Bebbington wrote.

Even so, according the annual reports, staff wages and associated expenses have dropped from the 2005 figure of $242, 845 million to $217,141 million.

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About the Author

Malcolm King works in generational workforce change. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University. He also runs a professional writing business called Republic.

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