Thursday 7 July 2011
Hansard of the Legislative Council


Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - In January 1991 the University of Tasmania merged with what was then the TSIT and it was really the Tasmanian Institute of Technology but the 'S' was inserted for obvious reasons. That is a true story. You would remember that, wouldn't you?
That amalgamation basically formed a northern campus of the University of Tasmania. Of course, how you viewed that move depended on where you were at the time. If you were in Hobart the university had acquired a small bush outpost far away, not needing much from the great city university, with aspirations to be one of the top 10 in Australia. Now, by the way, there are close to 40 universities throughout Australia.
I see you have moved into my vision, member for Huon. It is not a signal then? No, okay, I will carry on.
Madam PRESIDENT - Your vision should be to the Chair.
Mr FINCH - And he has gathered some stalwarts around him as well.
Then in 1995 another little bush campus was added -
Ms Forrest - Excuse me.
Mr FINCH - the Cradle Coast campus, an almost forgotten outpost but vital for young people on the north-west coast who wanted a tertiary education. These moves in 1991 and 1995 were good ones but it seemed to many in the northern half of the State that they were rather half-hearted gestures. It is often the case that when a central institution sets up remote outposts it tends to see them as just that - remote outposts. Of course it is often the case that outposts feel ignored, justifiably or not, and they start to resent the centralisation of power and the resources in the main institution.
Since the amalgamation of the former TSIT in 1991 and the formation of the Cradle Coast campus in 1995 there was always the perception of centralised resources not being spread fairly, despite some evidence that the external campuses in Launceston and Burnie have made great progress, particularly in infrastructure and facilities, since their establishment.
The ongoing argument has been more about the perceived imbalance in the number of senior teaching staff in the northern half of the State compared with that at the University of Tasmania in Hobart. I can see you smiling there, Madam President, but I know you realise that this issue has been taken up on quite a number of occasions by the former member for the Legislative Council for Launceston, Mr Don Wing.
Ms Forrest - So he has not really left, has he, while you are still here.
Mr FINCH - At last year's graduation ceremony in Launceston Mr Wing spoke of the decline in the percentage of the student load in the north when compared with UTAS in Hobart. He pointed out that the university's website showed that in 1991 almost 40 per cent of full-time students were at Launceston, 60 per cent were in Hobart. By 2009 the percentage in Launceston was reduced to 30.5 with 3.5 per cent at Burnie. By comparison, Mr Wing said, the number of full-time students in Hobart represented 66 per cent of Tasmanian enrolments, almost double the two northern campuses combined. Mr Wing told the Launceston graduation ceremony, and I will quote:
'The disparity in the numbers and percentages of Teaching and Research Professors, Associate Professors and Readers between the campuses is even more dramatic and disconcerting.
In 1993, there were 21 senior teaching staff members in Launceston and 25 in 2009 - representing 12.6% state wide. In Burnie in 2001 there was one, and in 2009 there were 5.
In Hobart, in 1993 there were 87 senior teaching staff members but by 2009 the number had escalated to 168 - meaning that last year 84.8% of the total senior UTAS teaching staff in Tasmania were located in the University at Hobart.
In summary, at the University at Launceston the number of Professors and Associated Professors had moved from 21 in 1993 to merely 25 in 2009 whereas in Hobart during the same period they had almost doubled to 168.'
What I want to talk about, Madam President, is that the new Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Peter Rathjen, has acknowledged the importance of the northern campuses. A few weeks ago, although not long in the job, Professor Rathjen sent a memo to staff. It detailed a number of structural and administration changes and among them was one of notable significance. Professor Rathjen announced a plan to appoint a pro vice-chancellor for regional development. He had gone out of his way to arrange a meeting, I might say, with Mr Wing and others from the north and I could quote the new Vice-Chancellor but I have seen you looking at your clock a couple of times, Madam President, so I will cut it short by saying that it is not necessarily the winds of change at UTas but certainly a breath of fresh air and good for the whole of the university and not just for the northern campuses.