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Newcastle quits IRU

The Australian     |      22 December 2014

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Newcastle University has quit the Innovative Research Universities (IRU) group saying it would rather advocate for its own particular interests in light of proposed government funding cuts and fee deregulation. Along with other university groupings and Universities Australia, the IRU has been a vocal advocate for proposed fee deregulation.

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Caroline McMillen, Newcastle’s vice-chancellor, said the university’s research intensiveness in a low socioeconmic region put pressures on her institution that were not necessarily mirrored by the IRU’s other member universities.

The combination of a 20% funding cut and restrictions on possible fee increases due to the socioeconomic make-up of the Newcastle region put particular pressures on Newcastle. The city has a $200 a week lower median wage than Sydney, she said.

Regional universities are a blind spot in the deregulation debate. We are research intensive but we are in a region with low educational attainment, low median wage and greater difficulty to (increase fees) when the commonwealth funding goes down quite so precipitously.

Asked if her position on deregulation was not consistent with the IRU’s, Professor McMillen said:

It’s not that it’s no longer consistent, it’s just different. I know that sounds like semantics, but if you are going to make a commitment to a group you really have to spend the time and energy on it. In the current climate, we felt that the time, energy and commitment was better spend on challenges that directly face our university.

John Dewar, IRU chairman, said that “the IRU will continue to advocate for the needs of universities providing a comprehensive mix of research and education where it is needed: outer metropolitan areas and major regional cities.”
In 2008, Macquarie University quit the IRU but it brought in Charles Darwin University as a new member in 2009.

 

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