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Mixed feelings and messages at CQUniversity

Brendan Kirkman, President of the Central Queensland University Students Association. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin
Brendan Kirkman, President of the Central Queensland University Students Association. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin Allan Reinikka

UNREST and uncertainty among staff and students at CQUniversity persisted yesterday after it was revealed four deans would be made redundant in line with major restructuring.

The redundancies coincide with a fall in ratings in the 2013 Good Universities Guide and students and teachers want answers.

A number of key positions at the university are likely to be lost over the coming months after four departments were amalgamated to form one super faculty, with a deputy vice-chancellor.

Student association president, Brendan Kirkwood said vice-chancellor Professor Scott Bowman had said there would be no further restructures when he commenced his position in 2009.

"They were going to give it some time, but since then we've had constant restructures," he said.

Professor Scott Bowman declined to be interviewed on Wednesday but when questioned about the redundancies and luxury additions to the home he rents on campus, he instead wrote an open email to all staff.

One informed staff member told The Morning Bulletin that Professor Bowman was the reason many of them had joined the university in recent years.

"Scott Bowman has been a very positive influence overall … he brought energy and a raft of new ideas and programs.

"He's very well liked by the staff … but he can be difficult to get along with one on one."

Mr Kirkman agreed with others that Scott Bowman could be difficult to get along with.

"He's completely unapproachable … he doesn't like me because I openly disagree with him."."

A downturn in international student numbers has left CQUniversity's metropolitan campuses exposed to financial risk.

The metropolitan campuses are privately owned by CMS, a wholly-owned subsidiary and two months ago, the University announced the closure of its Gold Coast campus.

A source alleges that other metropolitan campuses, exposed to a declining international student market, could also be closed, leaving the University exposed to 10 year leases costing around $16 million per year.

Corporate communications director, Chris Veraa said he saw no need to close further campuses.

"The Gold Coast is very international student heavy. It's a small and very competitive market with its own dynamic.

"Signs are positive that the interest is there in the other markets," he said.

In the current financial climate, rumours that Scott Bowman is having a swimming pool and 10-person Jacuzzi built at his rented, university home are not sitting well.

In his letter to staff, Professor Bowman said he took a significant salary cut (his salary was reported to be $450,000 in 2009) compared to the previous vice-chancellor ($700,000).

"I am not here for the money, I am here because I am passionate about CQUniversity and the positive difference the University can make to the communities of Central Queensland," the email said.

"My place of residence is not provided as part of a package…the University is currently making some capital improvements to the residence…these works include the addition of a spa bath, painting work, cabling and new plants, total value of approximately $15,000.

"Once these additions are in place, my weekly rent is likely to increase as a result of the improved value of the property. It's as simple as that," he said in the email.

Professor Bowman said he was greatly disappointed that "some members of staff have taken it upon themselves to stir up mischief and sully the University's reputation in a very public way."

" Yes, there are still some challenges that we have to overcome.

"The downturn in international student enrolments has hurt the University's bottom line, and the various change proposals and restructures currently underway, including the Higher Education Division, Nulloo Yumbah and CMS, may be causing uncertainty for some people.

"But in a fast moving sector like higher education, change is unfortunately an inevitability and the University simply has to find ways to refine the way it does business, to stay competitive in a changing market.

"I make no apologies for this," the email said.

Professor Bowman was in Sydney yesterday and attempts to contact him were unsuccessul.

CQUNIVERSITY FACTS

CQUniversity opened as Queensland Institute of Technology (Capricornia) in 1967.

It became an official university in 1992.

The university has 20,000 students in six regional, four metropolitan campuses and distance education and emplooys 1500 staff.

Almost half the students are from a low socioeconomic background.

Wiki Leaks founder, Julian Assange is a former student.



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