TAFE cuts hit Ballarat hard

Dual-sector University of Ballarat will terminate up to 60 TAFE courses and a large number of staff in the wake of the Victorian government’s plan to slash nearly $300 million from public providers. The university says it is the latest casualty of the budget cuts, which it estimates will cost it $19 million, or 40 per cent of its TAFE budget, to the end of 2013.
Pro vice-chancellor (schools and programs) Professor Andy Smith said the university was not considering shutting its TAFE campus. However, staff cuts were inevitable, beginning with volunteer redundancies of casuals before considering the fate of about 200 permanent TAFE teachers. “We’re in the process of consultation with the staff about those courses and what it means to shut them, and we’ll have to proceed to a final decision from there,” Smith told Campus Review. He said the 60 courses represented about a third of those offered at Ballarat TAFE.
As the state’s 17 other TAFE institutes also scramble to understand the full impacts of the cuts, Smith said it was clear regional centres would feel the brunt. “When you’re looking at Melbourne, you’re dealing with a handful of very large metropolitan TAFE institutes. In that situation, employees and students can shop around a bit.” he said. “But in the regions, it’s much more difficult because you’ve got one TAFE institute, and when that one TAFE institute starts to cut back on its offerings … the only alternative then is to travel to the city. That may or may not be feasible.”
Smith said the university was “very disappointed” in the Victorian government’s approach to the cuts, which were gutting the bedrock of the VET system. “By removing the funding differential between the big, comprehensive public provider and private providers, then essentially what you’re doing is taking away the linchpin in the state’s training system,” he said.
Meanwhile, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has called on Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu to reverse the cuts, saying the entire TAFE sector, from students to staff and management, are united in their opposition. “The devastation being caused by these cuts is becoming clearer with the passing of each day,” NTEU Victorian secretary Dr Colin Long said in a statement.
“Hardly a day has gone by over the last week without at least one TAFE announcing job losses, course closures and cutbacks to services. “The NTEU will be joining with the Australian Education Union and other organisations opposing the cuts, to organise rallies in every regional centre affected by the TAFE cuts.”
The three weeks of rolling rallies will begin in Mildura on Wednesday.

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