The Australian | 18 September 2013
La Trobe vice-chancellor John Dewar has warned that the university is overdue for a “root-and-branch” crackdown on costs, having systematically avoided addressing funding issues for the past 10-15 years.
La Trobe is behind its growth target by about 1200 full-time students, amounting to a revenue shortfall of up to $25m by 2015 and an overall deficit of $65 m.
There are some worries that the vice-chancellor’s targets for boosting performance may be unaffordable. And there are concerns that in seeking to attract students with higher ATARs, the university’s original mission to increase participation could be diluted.
But Dewar rejects such suggestions and says the plan to raise La Trobe’s share in Victoria of commencing students with ATARs of at least 80 from 7.1% per cent to 12% by 2017 is about making the university more widely attractive to students by boosting its teaching and research performance.
In absolutely no sense has the university structured its intake of students because of concerns about ATAR entry, and nor have we in any way walked away from our commitment to participation. If we are to grow as a whole, we have to maintain our appeal to all segments of the market. We can’t continue to grow just at the bottom end of the market. It has to be balanced growth.
La Trobe has recently announced a joint venture with NMIT to create Melbourne Polytechnic, which creates both a higher education alternative to and a pathway into La Trobe.
News of the projected deficit, and speculation as to measures needed to address it, has prompted fears of cuts of 300 or more jobs..
In a sign that academic staff face a shake-up, Professor Dewar told a staff meeting earlier this month that there were 500 La Trobe academics who had not published in the past six years. He said such staff had to become more productive and that could mean taking on more teaching loads;
For the staff who are not researching, we need to find ways to ensure they have a full workload.
But the NTEU’s Mansel Lees said many staff already had high teaching loads that limited their research to just 15% or less of their time, making it impossible to maintain a research profile.