The University of Tasmania spent more than $1.3 million on renovations of the vice-chancellor’s office and nearby administration area over the five years to 2016, the ABC can reveal.
- A total of $1,383,000 was spent on upgrades between 2012 and 2016, during Professor Peter Rathjen’s tenure
- The National Tertiary Education Union says the costs were “substantial”
- The University of Tasmania says the costs were in line with the price of construction and refurbishment in Australia
Information provided by the university shows in 2012 the vice-chancellor’s office — then occupied by former vice-chancellor Peter Rathjen — was revamped as part of the property maintenance program, at a cost of $146,000.
Two years later it was reconfigured again, to create a new meeting room and install extensive audio-visual and IT equipment, at a cost of $477,000.
In 2016 the administration area next door was also substantially upgraded to set up offices, meeting rooms and kitchen facilities, costing a further $760,000.
In total, $1,383,000 was spent on upgrades between 2012 and 2016.
Costs consistent with construction prices: UTAS
The union representing university staff, the National Tertiary Education Union, has previously tried to obtain the figures to no avail during enterprise bargaining negotiations, according to state secretary Kelvin Michael.
“In 2017, the NTEU raised with UTAS management the reportedly high costs of renovations to the vice-chancellor’s office,” Mr Michael said.
“In the current financial situation, the NTEU expects that the current UTAS management will refrain from similar expenses, consistent with vice-chancellor (Rufus) Black’s stated aims of reducing unnecessary expenditure.”
UTAS said the 2016 administration project was across a floor area of 290.25 square metres, equating to just over $2,600 per square metre.
“These costs are in line with construction and refurbishment costs in Australia,” a university spokesman said.
The union last month questioned the business class travel costs of former vice-chancellor Peter Rathjen, after it was revealed he spent just over $277,000 on business class travel over four years during his tenure.
In August South Australia’s anti-corruption watchdog found Professor Rathjen had sexually harassed two female colleagues while vice-chancellor of the University of Adelaide, which prompted the University of Tasmania to launch a review into whether there had been similar issues at that university despite there being no known allegations of that kind.
The University of Tasmania has since appointed an independent counsel to advise on the review.
Current UTAS vice-chancellor Rufus Black warned in the institution’s 2019 annual report that it has just five years to develop into an economically sustainable operation.
Mr Rathjen was contacted for comment.