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Millions may walk when courses close

WESTERN Australia has most likely lost the opportunity to train 200 podiatrists for Malaysia, according to two podiatry groups.

Australian Podiatry Association (WA) president Neil Hall says Curtin University’s decision to close its undergraduate program could deprive the university of millions in revenue from a program such as that proposed by the Malaysian Government.

Podiatry Professionals director Julie Norton says WA, which offered one of the most respected courses in the country, is likely to face a shortage of podiatry professionals within five years.

Ms Norton tendered to provide undergraduate training in Australia for Malaysian students, and approached Curtin University earlier this year to broker the training component.

However, Curtin was not interested, Ms Norton says.

While Ms Norton is expecting to hear the result of her tender by October, she will not reapproach Curtin due to its decision to close undergraduate training programs.

However, she might approach a “prestigious” Sydney university, which does not as yet have a podiatry program.

Mr Hall said the APA had become concerned at Curtin’s plans to close courses, when financial viability was first raised last October.

The APA had written to the Federal ministers for health and education, requesting strategies be put in place to prevent courses closing, Mr Hall said.

However, the ministers’ replies indicated they could not do anything, Mr Hall said.

Curtin University executive dean health sciences, Charles Watson, said the Malaysian proposal could be a possibility for Curtin.

“But until we see a business plan, it does not really exist,” he said.

“We get one of these every week.

“Only one in 10 or 20 propositions comes off – it’s like all business.”

Dr Watson said such ventures usually took three years before they started to break even for the university.

Traditionally, most of the profits went to the consultants, he said, with the contractors, such as Curtin, getting the slim end of the deal.

Health sciences deans from universities across Australia were hoping to meet with the Federal Government in the next few weeks to reinforce the view that it must get its act together over the small clinical courses.

A WA Department of Health spokesperson said last week the department had been concerned about potential implications from the closure of Curtin University’s School of Podiatry, and was keen to find a solution to the problem.

The WA Health Minister had written to the Federal Health Minister, Kay Patterson, in March raising “grave concerns” that the closure “would cause considerable difficulties and possibly compromise services”.

The spokesperson said the WA Health Minister, then Bob Kucera, had asked Ms Patterson to raise the issue in the context of national education policy development.

Federal Ministers for health and education were unavailable for comment before WA Business News went to print this week.

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