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Deregulation uncertainty leaves Melbourne University unable to budget

The Age     |      1 November 2014

Too many “known unknowns”

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With the government’s university reform package, which includes funding cuts and fee deregulation, apparently stalled in the Senate, The University of Melbourne has been unable to draw up a budget for next year due to uncertainty.

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With the government’s university reform package, which includes funding cuts and fee deregulation, apparently stalled in the Senate, The University of Melbourne has beenGlyn Davis 3 unable to draw up a budget for next year due to uncertainty.

In an email to staff on 31 October, vice-chancellor GlynDavis said that because of the “known unknowns” concerning higher education funding in coming years, the university was unable to plan with confidence for next year, or beyond that.

There are too many known unknowns. Key financial measures for the sector remain untested before the Senate. Should the government’s plans for deregulation not prevail, as many predict, who knows what policy settings will follow?

He said the university’s Planning and Budget Committee had, in the past, held an annual two-day event to draw up a budget for the following year and make estimates for the next three years.

However this year it was unable to provide any estimates for the next three years and it was also unable to “predict with confidence likely minimum public funding for 2015.

The committee could only provide a “likely” budget for 2015.

We aspire to be autonomous, independent institutions, speaking without fear or favour to the great issues of the day through teaching, research and engagement. Yet our lived reality is the experience of 2014, waiting for the Senate to decide what it will allow governments to fund or universities to charge.

This need to plan amid uncertainty is a reminder that universities do not control their fate. Under present arrangements governments, state and federal, define many choices for universities.

 

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