Unlocking frozen funds could spark CQU expansion
A FUND frozen for the past two years with $3.7 billion in it, originally earmarked for educational infrastructure projects, is at risk of being lost to education infrastructure investment.
The fund in question - the Education Investment Fund (EIF) - provided CQUniversity with close to $100 million for projects and the merger with TAFE.
It was, according to a Federal Government website, 'closed' on January 1, 2015 in response to a recommendation by the National Commission of Audit that nation building funds, such as the EIF, would be consolidated as part of the proposed Asset Recycling Fund (ARF).
However, the funds have not been consolidated, as The Australian revealed last month.
The Australian reported that the Federal Government was now looking at transferring the funds from EIF to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) fund.
The move has sparked many people from the university sector to call for the Federal Government, as it resumes and focuses on the next annual budget, to reconsider moving the funds and unlocking the existing funds for educational institutes to move forward with projects.
Universities Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson said the decision to axe the EIF meant there would not be funds to build game-changing facilities in the future.
Before the EIF was frozen, CQU was able to build the game-changing Rockhampton Health Clinic. If the funds were 'unfrozen' and provided yet again for education infrastructure, the university would be able to move forward with Stage 3 of the health clinic.
"The Education Investment Fund was not just about new buildings for the university, it was about providing cutting-edge facilities for the community," CQU Vice-Chancellor Scott Bowman said.
"Before we had the clinic it was hard to retain local health workers and there was a waiting list of at least three years for some treatments," Mr Bowman said.
"Now there's no waiting list and the people we've trained are able to stay here in Rockhampton, improving health care in the region.
"A rebooted Education Investment Fund would have great potential to support future projects of benefit to the Rockhampton region, including new state-of-the-art vocational training facilities and the proposed Stage 3 Health Clinic.
"A Stage 3 Health Clinic on CQUniversity Rockhampton North is proposed to focus on Aged Care and related health disciplines.
"This multi-million project would enable partnerships with Q Health and aged care industry stakeholders, to provide opportunities for our students and underpinning expansion of aged care services in the community."
"As new kinds of skills are needed, the facilities we have now may not be the ones we need in the future to train regional Australia."
The EIF has benefited CQU in a number of ways. Read the full list below.
Meanwhile, CQU Economics Professor John Rolfe pointed towards mining companies, and other companies, moving towards increased automation.
"So, in the future, mine workers are going to need higher levels of technical skills than what they've had in the past," he said.
Prof Rolfe said that meant there was an increased role for universities and TAFEs to provide the courses that will upskill those workers.
"It is important they can provide that for those roles in the regions," he said.
CQU benefits from EIF in the past
- This ground breaking transformation, finalised in 2014, brought together higher education and TAFE sectors through a merger of CQUniversity and Central Queensland TAFE.
- The creation of Queensland's first dual sector university would not have been possible without the significant injection of $73.8 million in funds from the Commonwealth's Education Investment Fund (EIF) and Structural Adjustment Fund (SAF).
- This injection of EIF funding leveraged $120 million of Queensland Government assets to create the one of the biggest regional universities in Australia, with more than 2,000 staff and 35,000 students across 24 locations.
- The dual sector university provides people living in the region seamless access to the full range of post-school education and training options and allows them to "skill up" for the unique workforce needs of the region.
- Some students use pathways from VET into higher education, while degree students can access additional trade qualifications to ensure they are employable and comprehensively skilled.
- CQUniversity has close links with the community and local industry and is in the best place possible to provide highly trained, work-ready graduates for the region.
- Key infrastructure projects made possible through EIF include: Rockhampton Health Clinic (Stage 2 - $14m); Mackay City Campus refurbishment ($10.2m); Mackay Engineering Building ($16.6m); and Interactive learning spaces and systems ($9.5m)