Vice Chancellor Bowman denies CQU has a ‘toxic culture’

Vice-Chancellor Professor Scott Bowman
Vice-Chancellor Professor Scott Bowman

REPORTS of a "toxic and chaotic" environment at CQUniversity persist as the university faces increased financial challenges and another round of staff redundancies.

Despite claims that staff morale is at an all-time low, Vice-Chancellor Professor Scott Bowman has denied a problem exists.

"We're going through a round of job losses and people are worried about their jobs, but I don't think it's toxic," Prof Bowman said.

However, one former staff member told the Morning Bulletin that since November last year, the deputy vice-chancellor of higher education, five out of nine faculty deans, the academic registrar, the chief financial officer, the pro vice-chancellor of research, the director of learning and teaching and the director of international marketing had all been made redundant, sacked or not had contracts renewed.

"(Prof) Bowman is getting rid of everyone who doesn't agree with him," he said.

The university has been under intense criticism for a business model that left it exposed and vulnerable when international student numbers dropped.

CQU relied more heavily on international student fees than most other Australian universities and felt the impact of the downturn.

Indian students were CQU's largest market and numbers dropped by 17.9% in the year to April, 2013.

Regional campus development, capital expenditure and about 20 new courses, mostly in allied health, were funded from cash reserves and international student fees.

From July 1, CQUniversity will introduce a changed management plan to enable it to stand on its own feet, without the international student income.

"Possibly, in more recent years it has become over-reliant on that money...efficiencies crept in and when the cash stopped flowing we had to make an adjustment," Prof Bowman said.

The past few years has seen the focus shift to growing the domestic market, with strong results.

"The downturn caused us a lot of pain," he said.

But to the staff who have, or who risk losing their jobs, the questions are not so much about income, but about expenditure, inefficiencies and ongoing sustainability.

Clearly there are problems at the university, and with staff, but Prof Bowman, is reluctant to acknowledge a problem.

"We have incredible policies in place for bullying and grievances. Why aren't people using them?" he asked.

One long-serving academic at the university said the answer was simple.

"There's a culture of victimisation; that's why no-one uses the grievance process, because you have to identify yourself," he said.

Topics:  cqu finance rockhampton

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