Dear Prime Minister,

RE: The establishment of a new Northern Tasmania institution of higher education and training

A group of concerned citizens has come together in Launceston Tasmania to express their concerns and to question the merit of proposed changes and relocation of the Northern Tasmanian Newnham campus of the University of Tasmania.

The site for relocation away from the established site at Newnham – Newnham being just a 6/7 minutes driving from Launceston’s centre – towards the commercial centre of town on two (2) flood-plain sites connected by a proposed footbridge across the North Esk River.

These small parcels of land:

• Are the site of a former railway terminuses and industrial workshops –now owned by Launceston City Council;

• Came under Council ownership via a Federal Government $10.28m ‘Better Cities Site’ redeveloped initiated in 1994;

• Are sites upon which there is considerable concern relevant to the city’s flood risk.

The city’s, indeed Northern Tasmania’s, ratepayers and residents have more generally expressed serious concerns that it is proposed that there be $4.5M worth of land that will be gifted to UTas.

Moreover, the concern is that the whole purpose of the ill-conceived plan is an apparent disguise for the continued ‘dumbing down’ of the university facilities in the north of Tasmania. The imperative seems to be a transfer of upper level courses from Launceston to the UTas Hobart campus.

A proposal by UTas to offer new Associate Degree courses only at the Northern Campus, seems to be the basis upon which UTas say an additional 10,000 students will be attracted to the two new sites.

There is no evidence that this number of new students could ever be achieved via this strategy. It seems particularly so as the completion of graduate programs would require students to later move to the UTas Hobart campus or indeed interstate.

It is the view of a growing number of northern Tasmanians that the very significant investment in buildings and infrastructure at Newnham must not be abandoned. Furthermore, it is believed that any new facilities that may be required into the future can be located at Newnham where there is 51ha already set aside for educational facilities.

If necessary, we believe that the Newnham campus ought to be divorced from the UTas Hobart administration so as to be allowed to compete on a fair and more economic basis, much like has occurred with Southern Cross University interstate.

Many people believe that the handsome sum being sought by UTas for their relocation project could be spent better by building onto the present infrastructure at Newnham campus and on other more important projects in Northern Tasmania.

We attach an open letter that we believe illustrates the Northern Tasmanian community’s concerns, and puts some perspective into the provision of tertiary educational facilities and services in this region. .

In preparing this open letter, input has been invited from a broad spectrum of the Northern Tasmanian community including past academics of UTas, and other institutions, all of whom are willing to speak up. Furthermore, the group has facilitated the production of an online OPEN LETTER – http://pmopenletter.blogspot.com.au/

Consistent with the precedent establish by Southern Cross University in 1992 we ask that via your good offices you facilitate the establishment of:

• An Advisory Group to consider the implications of a proposal to dismantle the now amalgamated campuses of the University of Tasmania; and In due course

• An Independent Advisory Group to advise ‘government’ on the establishment of a new university/institute in the North of Tasmania; initially as

• As an academically integrated institution incorporating another university/institution with the potential to establish additional sites at other northern Tasmanian sites as required; and

• Federal and State Ministers jointly appointing an Implementation Advisory Panel to advise on the strategies necessary to give effect to the proposed new structures and announce the successor institution to the UTas network.

It is also proposed that the new university/institution develop under the sponsorship of a major metropolitan university for the first three years, while operating under its own name and Council and awarding its own degrees in the longer term.

We welcome comment and feedback on this matter.

Sincerely,

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For and on behalf of concerned citizens of the Tamar/Esk region in Tasmania

• In Comments … The Quadrant Mall: HERE