University of the Sunshine Coast architecture at twilight. Photo: Brett Wortman
University of the Sunshine Coast architecture at twilight. Photo: Brett Wortman

Report warns Coast uni $31m worse off under changes

After dozens of job losses earlier this year the University of the Sunshine Coast is hopeful proposed government changes will provide the sector with the support it needs.

But a new report has warned the Federal Government’s proposed Jobs Ready Graduates program may cause more harm than good.

Already the Coast university is staring down the barrel of a $73.5 million budget shortfall over the next two years, due to the collapse in international student numbers.

A further $44 million shortfall is expected in 2022.

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New research by Mark Warburton of the University of Melbourne found the Coast was among many that would not benefit under the Federal Government’s proposed graduates package.

It said the university would be $31 million worse off under the changes.

Earlier this year the university announced job losses and a restructure in a bid to remain viable.

There were 70 voluntary redundancies, 49 of which were administration roles.

Mr Warburton’s research compared the estimated funding of individual universities in 2023 under the current policy, with the government’s proposed changes.

Professor Helen Bartlett, vice-chancellor of the University of the Sunshine Coast. Photo: Lou O’Brien
Professor Helen Bartlett, vice-chancellor of the University of the Sunshine Coast. Photo: Lou O’Brien

The package has been designed to direct students into job-relevant university courses such as nursing, teaching, maths, science, health and architecture by increasing funding and reducing fees to between $3700 and $7700 per year.

Meanwhile law and commerce students would have fees hiked by 28 per cent and humanities courses would increase in cost significantly.

“The analysis shows that final outcomes from the implementation of the Job-ready Graduates changes are highly uncertain,” Mr Warburton said.

“It indicates that there may be some surprising and potentially unexpected results.

“It is far from clear that the reforms will produce the benefits for our economy and for rural and regional higher education provision that the government is claiming.”

But the university remains optimistic, with a spokesman saying the package would provide greater certainty for funding.

In response to the estimate the university would be $31 million worse off under the proposed changes, he said that figure did not reflect USC's modelling.

“Equally importantly, (the program) also aims to deliver more places at regional campuses, which will lead to more regional students having greater educational opportunities closer to home,” the spokesman said.

“This, in turn, will lead to more income into regions, more prosperity and more jobs.”

Education Minister Dan Tehan has promised an extra $326 million in funding for more domestic places ahead of Tuesday’s Federal Budget.

The spokesman said USC had prepared for international students not to return to Australia until at least the second semester in 2021.

“USC remains viable and has taken the necessary actions this year to remain so,” he said.


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