News Store
Important notice to all NewStore users. The NewsStore service is now free! Please click here for more information. Help

The Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney Uni chases talent beyond affluent suburbs

Author: Heath Gilmore HIGHER EDUCATION REPORTER
Date: 06/03/2010
Words: 526
Source: SMH
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 3
THE University of Sydney has admitted it needs to address what it calls its "financial vulnerability" and broaden its intake beyond elite independent and selective high schools to attract the most talented students.

Unveiling a green paper outlining its future, its vice-chancellor said the student intake had to be extended beyond "the relatively affluent eastern and northern suburbs of Sydney". This was not a case of social engineering, Michael Spence said, but a recognition that the most talented and capable students were being excluded by the university.

Dr Spence said that the green paper, which would contribute to a strategic plan to be finalised in July, had been candid about the university's "strengths and weaknesses".

Among the proposals is that the university be reorganised into a College of Arts and Sciences. Alongside the college would be five professional schools: the School of Business, a School of Law, a School of Creative and Performing Arts, a School of Medical and Health Sciences (including the existing Medicine, Nursing and Midwifery, Dentistry, Pharmacy and Health Science faculties), and a School of Engineering Design and the Built Environment (Engineering and Information Technologies and Architecture, Planning and Design).

It also wants to set up three or four large-scale centres or institutes drawing more than 150 researchers from across the university to focus on issues of international significance. A forerunner of this idea was the Centre for Obesity, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease.

The green paper suggested the university would need yearly revenue growth of up to 8 per cent for increased infrastructure spending as well as targeting promising students and the brightest researchers.

Dr Spence said the university was financially vulnerable despite recording a $69 million surplus after costs last year. In an emergency this money would only cover five to six weeks of salary. The $400 million held by the university in reserves were mainly in fixed assets which would be difficult to realise in cash to cover a short-term crisis.

One of the contentious areas is the option paper's criticism of the "disproportionate" number of enrolments from the eastern suburbs and north shore at the expense of students from poor, regional or indigenous backgrounds.

In 2008, 65 per cent of new undergraduates were drawn from the eastern and northern suburbs largely from independent and selective schools.

The university wants to increase the number of undergraduate students from low socioeconomic backgrounds from 7 to 12 per cent using measures such as awarding a five-points bonus on their Australian Tertiary Admission Rank for entry into all undergraduate subjects.

The National Tertiary Education Union branch president, Michael Thomson, said that the university had maintained a facade of broad consultation. He said the union had not been asked to participate in planning for the options paper.

"What this paper fails to do is spell out what jobs will be lost, subjects cut and what students' targets will be to achieve this 12 per cent revenue growth," Mr Thomson said.

"When you have $1 billion in endowments there is no way you are financially vulnerable. It's a smokescreen."

KEY PROPOSALS

Cap international student numbers.

Increase the number of disadvantaged students.

Expand accommodation for students and relocating academic staff.

Grow revenue by up to

10 per cent.

 
 

Advertise with Us | Fairfax Digital Privacy Policy | Conditions of Use | Member Agreement
© 2014 Fairfax Digital Australia & New Zealand Ltd.