Budget shockwave

GIPPSLAND could lose two of its major TAFE campuses following the release of what has been described as a “shameful” State Government budget.

A funding slash of more than $100 million from TAFEs across the state has prompted Central Gippsland Institute of TAFE to “prepare for the worst”.

As a result of funding cuts, the institute’s Morwell and Leongatha campuses could close, according to GippsTAFE general manager corporate services Jim Vivian, who said the institute would bear the brunt of a $7 million to $10 million revenue loss up to January next year.

“We have got to re-look at our whole business delivery method; obviously this has sent shockwaves through the entire organisation but we don’t want to go whole sale sacking,” Mr Vivian said.

“We have to aggressively look at other ways of getting our revenue back and look at any way to avoid any significant job losses.”

The institute’s Morwell campus currently offers 143 courses, specialising in hospitality, Koorie studies, information technology, horticulture and administration.

According to Mr Vivian, under the new funding regime the institute would have to cut back on any enrolments effective from July this year.

He said courses previously funded at $7.80 per student contact hour had been reduced to $1.80 – a funding cut which could have “a knock-on effect” across other programs.

Potential campus closures come as a result of the State Government “reducing subsidies in areas of over supply”, according to government spokesman James Martin.

Mr Martin defended the government’s cutbacks saying it had announced $1 billion over the next four years for the training system.

“These changes are aimed at ensuring the government accounts for and invests taxpayers’ funds wisely in developing a strong state economy and jobs for Victorians,” Mr Martin said.

“Much of this money will go to better support courses that provide higher level training… particularly in areas of skills shortages or areas that make an important contribution to the Victorian economy.” He concluded there was a “massive imbalance in growth in some of the lower level or ‘lifestyle’ courses”.

The government’s recent actions however, were slammed by Australian Education Union Victorian branch president Mary Bluett as “the largest attack on public TAFE in the history of this nation”.

Ms Bluett said Gippsland’s low student retention rates signalled a “greater need for these courses rather than threatening the viability” of the campuses.

Her thoughts were shared by GippsTAFE chief executive Peter Whitley who said the institution strived to provide diversity in its courses, and feared the budget would hamper its ability to do so.