By Tony Moore
The University of Queensland‘s Ipswich campus had only 1397 enrolled students in 2013, well under 50 per cent of its “campus capacity” of 3300 students.
The poor student numbers were revealed on Tuesday by UQ’s Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) Professor Joanne Wright as she explained why the university now wants to sell its Ipswich campus.
Fairfax Media reported on Tuesday that UQ had signed a memorandum of understanding to sell UQ Ipswich to the University of Southern Queensland by 2015.
Professor Wright said the enrolment figures demonstrated how UQ had been unable to meet the demand of the Ipswich area.
“We are just not convinced that that wonderful asset is being used as well as it could, Professor Wright said.
“We wouldn’t be convinced that it is working to the best interests of the people of Queensland and particularly the people of the Ipswich region.”
She said the university had missed the mark with the courses it offered at the campus.
“I think that the University of Queensland has not been able to put on programs that are in areas of high student demand in the locality,” she said.
Professor Wright said that was why talks began with the Toowoomba-based University of Southern Queensland in 2013.
“They have a very different mission statement and they deliver a very different product to the community,” she said.
“The USQ has a portfolio of courses that are much more vocationally-orientated than UQ courses.
“So we have a feeling that – and that is what we are exploring in these negotiations – that is what may be more appropriate.”
She said USQ’s Applied Business courses and other associate diploma and diploma courses were examples of the types of courses now being considered.
“USQ does a much bigger range of applied courses than UQ does,” Professor Wright said.
“One such area might be applied business courses.”
Meanwhile, there is still no confirmation of what will happen to the land and buildings – gifted by the Queensland government to UQ and estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars – if the campus changes hands.
Professor Wright said those details were still being debated by the two universities.
“But the decision could be taken that the buildings and grounds transfer to the control of University of Southern Queensland,” she said.
Many of UQ Ipswich’s 105 academic and administrative staff now face unemployment.
“Those options could range from transferring to another part of UQ, or it may be that other people will leave the employ of the University of Queensland and look for another job in Ipswich,” she said.
Talks are now underway with individual teaching and administrative staff, Professor Wright said.
“Some of our staff are hugely loyal and have been living in Ipswich for a very,very long time,” she said.
“So for them the priority might be to stay in Ipswich, but for others it may mean furthering a career within UQ, which might mean transferring them to a great career at another campus.”
Professor Wright rejected suggestions the University of Queensland did not have its heart in the campus and was not trying to attract students.
“It has tried a number of subjects at the Ipswich campus and one would have to say that while they have done okay, they haven’t really thrived,” she said.
“But it come back to the fact the University of Queensland has a very different mission and it has different method of teaching to USQ and different business models to USQ.”
Professor Wright said a 2012-13 drop in investment funds available to the University of Queensland – revealed in this report – was not a reason for selling the campus.
She said the university’s financial situation had improved by $56 million during 2013.
“The overall financial position of the University of Queensland improved quite dramatically between 2012 and 2013,” she sid.
“So this is not a financially driven consideration.”
A final decision will be made in mid-July. (Brisbane Times)