SCU to look overseas for extra income

By NERIDA BLOK, Lismore City Reporter

PROFESSOR Paul Clark is looking overseas for the long-term survival of Southern Cross University.

The SCU Vice-Chancellor said that in addition to increasing HECS fees by 25 per cent and having to account for a $6 million deficit, SCU was looking to in- crease income from international students.

"We are reviewing all our international activities to see where best we can grow, both by bringing in more students to Australia and teaching offshore," he said.

He said SCU was also looking at a number of new courses, which he would not disclose, other than to says 'they are health related'.

Prof Clark explains the HECS fee that SCU 'had to have':

Q: Why the rise?

A: There was a gap between costs, mostly salaries, and the way the Commonwealth indexed its grant.

Essentially, that gap has been going up for a long time and we could no longer handle it.

The only element that could satisfy it was to increase student fees ? the only alternative was to increase the student/staff ratio, which is how we had been handling it in the past. I don't want to see them increase any more, or our quality will start to fall off.

Q: Who will pay the 25 per cent HECS increase?

A: Anybody who starts in 2006 and onwards will pay the higher rate that council decided.

Everybody else will be paying the rates they were paying before, except nursing and education stu- dents, who are protected from the rise.

Q: What has been the students' response?

A: The students have been very fair. They recognise we needed it. I think they would have preferred a lower lever, but they are work- ing with us.

Q: What impact will the rise have on enrolments?

A: We were late to increase fees. We all looked to see the evidence from universities around the country to see if those universities who hadn't increased fees had received more applications. There was nothing consistent.

So I don't expect there to be any change. HECS debt is a debt you start to pay off well after you have graduated. You have to earn $38,000 a year before you start repaying.

So it's more important we concentrate our efforts on finding ways to help our students, who find it difficult coming up with cash upfront.

Q: What impact will workplace reform have on SCU?A: The Government is treating universities quite particularly. Four weeks ago we were told we were required to do things without which we would lose 5 per cent of funding in 2006 and 7.5 per cent in 2007. They relate to governance of the institution and changes to the enterprise agreements we have been working with.

We have to offer Australian Workplace Agreements to all our staff ? they don't have to accept them, but we have to offer them. So we are working hard with unions to make sure this happens by September 1.

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