South West TAFE has steered clear of recommending closing campuses, unlike other skills training colleges, as revealed in leaked Cabinet documents.
However, the Warrnambool-based TAFE will sell four houses at Glenormiston, relocate its arts department from Deakin University, investigate consolidating its Hamilton campus and probably reduce its number of shared buildings in Warrnambool.
The college, which has just lodged its transition plan in response to massive government funding cuts, confirmed yesterday there was no push to close any of its four campuses.
Leaked documents obtained by the ABC on Thursday reveal Swinburne University wants to quit its Lilydale and Prahran campuses, Gippsland TAFE has considered selling its Yallourn site and Bendigo TAFE’s Castlemaine site is also on the list.
A special reform panel is due to meet TAFE leader next week and is scheduled to hand its report to cabinet by October 8 for the government to decide on the next stage of its skills training reform agenda.
South West TAFE chief executive Joe Piper told The Standard yesterday he was disappointed the confidential summary document had been leaked, but was confident in the way his board of management had handled the transition process.
“There will be no surprises for the community,” he said.
“There are no campus closures. We’ve been open and transparent. All staff have been notified of the recommendations.”
The leaked document, which was posted on the Australian Education Union website yesterday, shows South West TAFE aims to cut a further 15.5 effective full-time positions in addition to the 28 made three months ago and to improve productivity.
It predicts an operating deficit of $1.7 million next year and a $982,000 deficit in 2014 before achieving a small surplus for 2015, depending on government support of $2m to cover the transition.
The focus on more profitable courses will continue and new partnerships will be explored with Geelong’s Gordon Insitute.
Mr Piper said the sale of four houses at Glenormiston was approved last year by the government and proceeds would be ploughed back into equine and horticulture courses at the campus.
The Hamilton campus on Hammond Street will stay and plans are under way with Southern Grampians Shire Council and RMIT for an education hub on the under-utilised RMIT campus.
Mr Piper said the Warrnambool arts department would be operating at the central TAFE campus by February.
He said a key goal was to obtain federal funding for a proposed $29m regional trade skills training centre on the former Mitre 10 site on Raglan Parade.
Federal member for Corangamite Darren Cheeseman weighed into the debate and challenged local state MPs to stand up for the future of TAFE.
“The whole plan by South West TAFE is based on being able to obtain government money,” he said.
“I think it will be very difficult for them to achieve that.”