14 September 2012
A leaked summary of Victorian TAFE transition plans reveals plans for possible mergers, takeovers and asset swaps. The document, which summarises TAFE strategies to survive a $300 million budget cut, covers Victoria’s 14 stand-alone institutes and four dual-sector universities as well as a surprise entry from La Trobe University.
La Trobe, which does not have a TAFE division, plans to pursue partnerships with several regional TAFEs to help shore up the viability of three of its regional campuses.
This could affect the medium-term viability of the University of Ballarat, which is pursuing partnerships with the same TAFEs. If that transpires, La Trobe is “willing to consider merger with Ballarat.
Of the four northern Victorian TAFEs, Bendigo and Sunraysia plan to work with both universities. Shepparton-based GOTAFE opposes increased collaboration with both while Wodonga is yet to choose between them.
The two TAFEs in Gippsland are considering a merger with Melbourne-based Chisholm TAFE. The two southwestern regional institutes are also investigating a closer partnership, while at least two metropolitan TAFEs plan to morph into polytechnics.
Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE also proposes a property transfer as part of merger discussions with La Trobe, aimed at gaining access to federally funded undergraduate places under the guise of a polytechnic university.
Under the plan NMIT would become a company limited by guarantee with its own assets and board, but La Trobe would hold a majority of votes. Chief executive officer Andy Giddy acknowledges it would mean a change of ownership from the state education department to La Trobe University, but NMIT would still operate autonomously:
Our assets are state-owned, but they’ve withdrawn maintenance. It’s a very strange thing to have state assets not maintained at the whim of a financially challenged custodian.
Ballarat vice-chancellor David Battersby regarded La Trobe’s merger proposal as a “compliment”, but that it had to be seen as part of “the broader cut and thrust”.
The reality is we are two very different universities. They’re a metropolitan institution; we’re clearly regional. We’re dual sector; they’re not. There’s no strong community of interest between the two universities.
The leaked Cabinet-in – Confidence document detailing Victorian TAFE “transition plans”, can be accessed HERE (tafe_transition_plan)