Merger not enough to save TAFE: Opposition

The revelation of massive financial deficits by two TAFE institutes has caused fears of job losses, course cuts and campus closures, despite a merger and an infusion of $40 million from the State Government put into place.

Opposition spokesman for higher education and skills Steve Herbert warned the merger of Advance TAFE and GippsTAFE into Federation Training would cause cuts in personnel leaving “Gippsland students on their own”.

“The combined financial losses at Advance TAFE and GippsTAFE are so severe that the new Federation Training will be a merger of two broke TAFE institutes,” Mr Herbert said.

“It is now clear that more campus closures and staff losses are on the horizon.”

Advance TAFE’s annual report showed it lost a hefty $9.2 million last year, including a $6.8 million drop in State government funding.

GippsTAFE, on the other hand, is said to have incurred losses of up to $5 million.

Higher Education and Skills Minister Nick Wakeling denied the merger would cause massive job losses and course cuts across the region.

“The decision to merge – identified by the boards of the institutes – positions Federation Training to offer more courses for more students and more incentive for them to study in Gippsland,” Mr Wakeling said.

He said the government’s commitment to infuse $40.2 million into Federation Training “will help to support the merger transition process and upgrade training facilities”.

Mr Wakeling said the merger of the two institutes, which began on 1 May, would pave the way for stage two of the plan that would allow Federation Training to integrate with Federation University.

It is not clear if Federation Training will keep all 14 campuses held by the two TAFE institutes or if there will be job cuts.

The plan to merge the two TAFE institutes was announced last year following the State Government’s decision to cut $300 million from TAFE providers in 2012.