‘Moral right’ to offer support

MONASH University has a “moral obligation” to help financially underwrite the first five years of any new university entity in Gippsland.

That was the emphatic message from Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester on Friday, ahead of an announcement due by 9 May on whether Monash Gippsland and the University of Ballarat will forge a partnership for a new regionally-focused university.

The MP said there was “no doubt” a new university entity would “face significant financial hurdles in its early days and Monash must not be allowed to walk away from its responsibilities”.

While the University of Ballarat Council is meeting today, it is not expected to make a final decision, based on its ongoing ‘due diligence’ process, about any future alliance with Monash Gippsland until next week.

Monash University Council will also meet next week, on Wednesday afternoon.

Mr Chester said while he was “not privy to the negotiations” and had not “seen the university’s books”, he believed Monash “should make a sizeable contribution to underwrite the first five years of any new entity”.

Regardless of a continued role for Monash in a new entity, particularly through its link to the Gippsland medical school, a future alliance would see “an entirely new university with a new structure,” Mr Chester said.

“There needs to be local autonomy and decision making to allow the campus to act in the interests of all Gippslanders, which has not been the case under the Monash structure.

“There is an argument that the state and federal governments may need to provide assistance in (a new structure’s) early stages, but the greater obligation lies with Monash to ensure the future liability of any new university.”

Mr Chester called for a “very significant contribution” by Monash.

When the concept of a new university alliance was first raised in February, Monash University Vice Chancellor Professor Ed Byrne said the process would not see Monash sell “anything to anybody” or take “cash or assets from anybody.”

“We will gift enormous resources into the new institution and get behind it in every way,” he said, adding Monash stood to “lose assets and take a big hit to our bottom line” in its efforts to do the “best thing for the community”.