Over the past decade the University of Tasmania has been expanding its local facilities due to an increased growth in student numbers and further marketing to international outlets.
The University is currently constructing a new $90 million arts hub, and $75 million accommodation in central Hobart, as well as planning a $200 million Launceston campus at Inveresk. This follows the completed Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) and the Menzies Medical Science precinct in Hobart.
With an expanding state-wide presence, the University strengthens its monopolistic influence on tertiary education throughout Tasmania in a way that will shift socio-economic boundaries; although while touted as beneficial it evidently comes at a cost to many Tasmanians.
Following a budget blowout, it was recently revealed that the State Government will be providing an extra $15 million for the development of the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts in central Hobart; which had initially been budgeted for $75 million and had already received $15 million in State funding, as well as a further $37 million in Federal funding.
In its response to the media, the University said that extra funding was not to be seen as a bailout but as a partnership, due to the Government’s own stake in the project. The agreement for funding between the State Government and UTas also sees a transfer of Crown land to the University at its IMAS site in Taroona.
The expansion of UTas is praised by various levels of government for boosting Tasmania’s economic stability and by gentrifying underprivileged citizens, yet it carries with it the burden of a state-wide reputation as a glorified “university town”.
Rolling on from the so-called “MONA effect”, the University may be accidentally establishing a dominant professional class over an inherently undervalued and shrinking working class. This is obvious as the priorities of university leaders and governments favour an increase in university enrolments over Polytechnic or TAFE institutions.
As a result of the lack of professional opportunities available within Tasmania, most graduates will pack up and take their skills elsewhere, impacting the state economy, as remaining graduates are forced to take positions in which they are overqualified and under-utilised.
While the developments at UTas may bring negligible employment and enrolment benefits to the University, life for Tasmanians; whether they have graduated or never entered tertiary education, will no doubt suffer as its best and brightest leave to find greener pastures.
Nevertheless, the University will continue to set its sights on reaching milestones a decade from now; regardless of its apparent consequence and the impending brain drain that Tasmania will likely suffer.