CQUNIVERSITY is in the early stages of striking a deal with CQ TAFE in a bold bid to become Queensland's first dual-sector university.
Vice Chancellor Scott Bowman yesterday revealed exciting plans to form partnerships with TAFE and other training providers.
In a recent university publication, he said: “Dual sector means we could give more Central Queenslanders manoeuvring in and out of careers more optimism, more options, and more opportunities.''
He rejected union fears the plan was a takeover aimed at CQUniversity's getting greater access to federal funding.
However, any future deal was likely to deliver more students for CQ TAFE, which The Morning Bulletin reported in April was in a cash-strapped position and having to cut 60 staff.
In 2009-10 there were 525 “full-time equivalent” staff, and more than 21,000 students at the Central Queensland Institute of TAFE, while CQUniversity, one of Rockhampton's largest employers, has about 1800 staff members and 17,000 students across all of its campuses.
“We are talking to CQ TAFE about how we can work together a lot more closely,” Professor Bowman said.
Queensland Teachers' Union TAFE organiser Paul Reardon said he wasn't surprised talks had started, given the funding at stake.
He expressed concerns the move could become a money- making venture for the university – a claim not accepted by Professor Bowman.
“We don't want to see a situation where one organisation takes over another organisation solely to get money,” Mr Reardon said.
“The university will get access to federal funds in relation to vocation programs.
“The vocational and tertiary sector is not just about producing people to go and get a degree.
“We want to see an organisation that supplies students with some type of qualification or course offering that best suits the individual for a whole-of-life situation.”
Professor Bowman said while specific details of any form of agreement hadn't yet been formed, they were certainly not looking at a takeover of the TAFE.
The agreement was planned to make it easier for students to move from vocational training to higher education, benefiting the community by providing a highly skilled workforce.
“Our strategic direction is to be Australia's most engaging university and we think we can engage better with the industry and the community by becoming dual-sector,” Professor Bowman said.
They were looking to move forward with the process.
“We are going to make an application to the Queensland Government to look to amending the Central Queensland University Act to become dual-sector,” Professor Bowman said.
“I would think that would take somewhere in the region of about a year.”
Greg Thurlow, acting executive director of the Office of Higher Education, said the proposal was being analysed and evaluated by the Department of Education and Training.
CQ TAFE student Chloe Restell believes the dual-sector proposal has merit.
The 19-year-old Yeppoon woman is in the final weeks of a three-year hairdressing course.
“I guess it would be pretty good.”
“We could share resources and things like that. As long as they didn't drop courses,” Chloe said.
Chloe said she had enjoyed her studies at CQ TAFE.
CQ TAFE yesterday had not issued a response and had not provided staff and student numbers.