The University of Tasmania is slashing hundreds of the degrees and courses it offers, as it struggles with financial challenges – including an “over-reliance on China” for students.
In a letter sent to staff this afternoon, Vice Chancellor Rufus Black told employees UTAS was “facing sustained headwinds to being long-term sustainable” and the number of courses was to be reduced from about 514 to 120 by next year.
Professor Black said the start of this year had demonstrated the university had an “over-reliance” on students from China, which, coupled with the emergence of coronavirus, would have “long-lasting consequences”.
“The combination of these forces is proving to be a very strong headwind,” said Professor Black, adding the university was “not making enough progress to be the right size to be sustainable even in the short term”.
“The year sees us start a long way behind our budget and with more financial challenges to come.”
UTAS said it would need fewer employees and would aim to reduce staffing levels through “natural turnover and redeployment”, but has not said how many jobs will be cut.
“We have thought a lot about the timing of doing this work with the coronavirus situation evolving,” Professor Black said.
“We know we face significant financial challenges today and into next year. By getting going now, we have the best chance to do this in a planned way, over an appropriate time.”
Professor Black said UTAS was “fortunate … pressures aren’t at a level requiring redundancies” and management “have the time to do this well”.
He said UTAS aims to reduce the “tangle of complexity” in its course offerings by culling the number of educational options being offered by about 75 per cent.
The current course structure “makes for a picture which is truly bewildering, both for our students and our staff who have to work with it”, Professor Black said.
“This challenge is not news to us. We have been aware of it for years. Many of our people will have been involved in prior attempts to address it.
“For these reasons, it is important that our focus is not on how we arrived here; but on how we as a community intend to move on from here.”
Professor Black said UTAS would examine its 2021 course offerings in the coming months, so it can begin marketing them, adding the university would “simplify its website”.
Staff briefings on the changes will be held at campuses in Launceston, Burnie and Hobart later this week.