A NSW Nationals MP has questioned why a regional university that revealed an $80 million revenue loss was able to enter into an agreement to build a new medical school two years ago.
- The university cited the effects of the pandemic and a loss of international students as major contributors to an $80 million loss
- NSW MP Paul Toole said before the pandemic the university was already “on a spiral of plummeting deficit”
- It was one of several institutions given money in the 2018 Federal Budget to build regional medical schools to train doctors for the bush
Charles Sturt University is under pressure to explain how it ended up having the revenue shortfall.
The university’s management cited the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and a loss of international students as major contributors to the loss.
It also confirmed that a restructure of courses was in the works and that job losses could not be ruled out.
But New South Wales Nationals MP Paul Toole was sceptical of the explanation, labelling it as a likely “scapegoat”.
“They are saying that COVID-19 has created the $80 million deficit. Well I have asked the board to be transparent,” Mr Toole said.
He wanted the university’s board to provide its 2019 annual report figures.
Mr Toole said the numbers from reports he had obtained did not stack up.
“[In 2015] they had a $38 million net operating result, in 2018 they had a $250,000 net operating deficit,” he said.
“This is something that doesn’t creep up overnight.”
‘Where is the business case?’
The first sod was turned at the Orange-based medical school campus in December last year.
The institution was one of a number of universities that were given money in the 2018 Federal Budget to build regional medical schools to train undergraduate doctors with the hope it would entice them to practice in the bush.
The member for the federal seat of Calare, Andrew Gee, said there was no turning back on the medical school, despite the university’s revenue loss.
In a statement to the ABC, Mr Gee said he believed CSU had sufficient reserves to “weather the storm”.
But Mr Toole said he wanted CSU to make assurances it would not scrap the Bathurst campus’ key courses, including those for paramedics, teaching, and journalism.
He also wanted to know how the uni was able to be involved in a multi-million-dollar medical school network.
He said it was unfair to let other campuses take the hit for what he claims was an example of “empire building”.
“Don’t go and rip the guts out of a university like Bathurst to try and make it viable,” he said.
The ABC has sought a response from CSU.