Launceston looks set to benefit from an injection of jobs, after the University of Tasmania revealed part of its plans for Newnham.
More than 200 jobs will be relocated to the Newnham campus under the first stage of the Newnham master plan, which was announced by UTAS vice-chancellor Rufus Black on Tuesday.
A cornerstone of the first stage will be the relocation of the headquarters of the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, which will be completed over the next three to five years.
Professor Black said between 70 and 80 academic jobs would be relocated from Hobart and the North-West to Launceston when the HQ is set up.
WATCH THE ANNOUNCEMENT:
“Our strategy commits us to be a university which operates in a regionally networked way,” Professor Black said.
“That means having enough people in each of our locations to ensure they are dynamic, exciting places that are embedded in ways which supports the local community and economy.”
Professor Black said the University’s presence would provide the building blocks at Newnham for a dynamic mixed-use precinct.
UTAS will also move and establish a professional services centre that would service the entire institution, but be based in Launceston.
Professor Black said the structural changes were about moving away from a traditional “hub-and-spoke” model UTAS as used in the past.
Over the past several years, UTAS has operated under that model, which included Hobart as the hub and Launceston and Burnie as the regional spokes – or satellite campuses.
However, after implementing significant infrastructure upgrades as part of the $360 million Northern Transformation project, Professor Black announced the changes that would ensure UTAS became a smaller and more agile university for Tasmania.
“What we’re doing to be bringing here is part of our strategy to continue to strengthen the university’s presence across its regions among significant further developments at the Inveresk campus,” Professor Black said.
“We’ll be adding to that our regional presence by relocating the TIA research laboratories to help strengthen TIA’s presence in the North. A significant amount of researchers will move to Launceston in order to be closer to the majority of Tasmania’s agricultural industry.”
Professor Black confirmed staff from the North-West and Hobart will be required to move to Launceston as a result on the reshuffle, but said it would be managed to fit in with their needs.
However, he said the changes would not result in job losses.
“The way that we’re doing it, with the professional services, you tend to have a natural turnover of staff. So when we experience that turnover it is here in Launceston where we will be hiring those replacements,” he said.
The Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture is a statewide institution funded by UTAS and the state government. Its headquarters are in Hobart, but Professor Black said relocation would mean researchers would be closer to the agricultural industry and farms where they work.
TIA has research farms at Forthside and at Freer Farm in Burnie, on the North-West Coast and Professor Black did not confirm the future of those facilities, but said it would strengthen capacity.
“Obviously we are shifting the gravity of TIA to Launceston and the focus at the moment is on building our research capacity and getting that capacity closer the bulk of farms,” he said.
“TIA is a statewide institution and it will remain a statewide institution, but headquartered at the heart of the Tasmanian agricultural sector. It will have a home here [at Newnham] but also at our new campus.”
The new Inveresk campus under construction will include a large number of food services and agricultural laboratories in the Willis Street building, which forms stage three of the campus build.
Willis Street will also house a cafe, where local produce grown by the university will be served. Willis Street is the last component of the campus and is expected to by constructed and open by 2024.
Professor Black said staff would enter discussions about relocation, because the decision had been made to move TIA north.
“For each of them it is about what is the plan for them and where they are in their career, but this is where the future home of TIA is going to be and that has to accommodate people’s lives, choices and careers. But over time, this will be where the jobs will be,” he said.
BREAK THE SPOKES
The University of Tasmania has operated under a hub-and-spoke model for the past several years, after it established its Hobart campus as its major centre.
Launceston and Burnie have operated as satellite campuses, and there has been despair in the student community over the lack of the breadth of courses offered in those campuses compared to Hobart.
However, soon after announcing the Northern Transformation Plan, Professor Black said the hub-and-spoke model would not serve UTAS’ strategic direction, which is to be a smaller, agile university.
Last month, UTAS announced it was seeking voluntary redundancies as part of a series of measures that will mitigate the effects COVID-19 has had on the bottom line for the institution. It is weathering the storm of fewer international students, who have been affected by travel restrictions and border closures.
Professor Black said these operational changes would help to bring life back to the Newnham campus, but would also strengthen research offerings, which would, in turn entice students to study at UTAS.
“These kinds of moves fit profoundly with our strategy, which is about serving the Tasmanian community and meeting the needs of industry.
“And it also brings the education Tasmanians want to do closer to home, so this is a really good fit for what that means.”
The full Newnham master plan is in development, and is expected to be released in full before the end of the year.
Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association chief executive Peter Skillern said the organisation was seeking answers on the move.
“The announcement raises more questions than answers and we will be seeking to be briefed by UTAS to answer those,” he said.
Mr Skillern said more clarity was needed from UTAS on why the move was needed and how this would affect TIA staff and students.
He said UTAS needed to answer questions on how economically viable this was, and why it was needed.