17/10/2008 - 09:19

Global turmoil hits universities: report

17/10/2008 - 09:19

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The global financial meltdown has prompted the University of Western Australia, along with tertiary institutions across the country, to tighten the financial belt after falls in investments.

The global financial meltdown has prompted the University of Western Australian, along with tertiary institutions across the country, to tighten the financial belt after falls in investments.

UWA vice-chancellor Alan Robson told WA Business News in a statement that the university will slow its capital works program as income from investments is projected to halve next year.

He added that investment income makes up some 6 per cent of UWA's annual income, however that figure will be reduced to around 3 per cent in 2009.

"Allowing for this, we expect total income for the University for 2009 to increase by about four per cent," Professor Robson said.

He said full details of any adjustments will be released in the UWA annual report for 2008 which is released in the first quarter of 2009.

A UWA spokesperson said the university is not specifying which building programs will be slowed down, saying that a couple of big projects will be on hold.

Earlier this year, UWA was looking to build a $30 million museum to house the Berndt collection of indigenous artefacts, and a $50 million commitment to the expansion of the WA Institute of Medical Research facilities.

Other capital works projects include a new business school and physical sciences buildings.

Meanwhile, both Murdoch University and Edith Cowan University told WA Business News that they have not been affected by the global financial turmoil.

A Murdoch spokesperson said the university does not rely on investment income as a revenue stream while an ECU spokesperson said the university has no plans to cut any programs or services.

Meantime Sydney University has told ABC Radio that it will cut spending next year because revenue from investments had dropped by $100 million.

"Sydney University's been affected simply because a significant amount of money invested produced about $150 million a year over the past few years and this year we are anticipating it will only produce about $50 million," Acting vice-chancellor Don Nutbeam told the ABC's PM program.

"So, next year, we are probably expecting to be down about $100 million."

Professor Nutbeam indicated enterprise bargaining negotiations may be put on hold, an issue also concerning JCU.

James Cook University in north Queensland is reportedly looking at cutting its budget by 2 per cent.

JCU executive director of finance and resource planning Tricia Brand did not rule out cuts to courses and jobs and said the university was concerned overseas student numbers could be affected.

"We are heavily exposed to the US market, so we are concerned about the impact that that might have," she said.

But not all of Australia's universities will make spending cuts. Several told the ABC that while they have lost money, it would not affect spending.

The Tertiary Education Union said it was unfortunate staff were being asked to make cutbacks.

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