Job cuts, asset sales, but Southern Cross Uni vows no campus closures

Students will be offered a Queensland-first way of studying at the financially embattled Southern Cross University on the Gold Coast, while staff are being asked to accept a pay freeze and “inevitable” job losses to combat a $40 million budget hole.

Jun 18, 2020, updated Jun 18, 2020

The move to strip back SCU to overcome its crippling COVID-related economic crisis and loss of international students, comes as some Queensland universities have begun revealing plans for students to return to on-campus study.

Griffith University Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Debra Henly said Griffith would ramp up on-campus teaching and learning activities from the start of Trimester 2, Monday July 13.

Plans are also underway to trial the return of international students to bolster the financially devastated Australian university sector. International students will be flown to Australia on specially chartered flights within weeks to attend two universities in Canberra.

SCU Vice Chancellor Adam Shoemaker told staff at the university’s Gold Coast, Lismore and Coffs Harbour campuses on Wednesday, the university’s “best-case” $40 million financial emergency meant it had to make cuts as well as increase revenue.

“We will not shut any campus, I can categorically state that,” Shoemaker said.

“It’s not on the plans and it will not be on the plans.”

Shoemaker said the university was selling assets and had asked staff to forego the next two wage increases.

“But you have to be in the reality zone and say some job losses will be inevitable,” he said.

“It’s a sad situation but you just have to make those calls.”

He said the university was selling $28 million in assets and would cull some courses while changing to a new model replacing normal semesters with six study blocks a year.

The new six blocks of study was based on a model in the US and some Dutch and German universities and available in Australia only at Victoria University.

Unlike the traditional university model where students juggle multiple subjects at once over a semester, the block model meant students would focus on one subject at a time and study it for a block of up to eight weeks before starting another subject block.

Shoemaker said the university would also strip its offering back to core subjects and courses that would get students into jobs.

“We’ve looked really carefully at the evidence and we think being able to do one or two things at a time really well is far more likely to be successful than trying to balance or juggle four at once,” he said.

This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for journalism and ideas

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