You are here

Education, Children and Young People – University of Tasmania

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 7 June 2023

Tags: UTAS, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Mr Bullard. One more question to you, minister, on a different topic. The Premier, when we asked him questions about the University of Tasmania last year and our concerns about educational quality, course offerings, campus life and that sort of thing, stated that the University of Tasmania is a private entity. It's not, it's administered by a public act and as Minister for Education you have some engagement and level of oversight of UTAS.

The University of Tasmania is now in trouble because the Ombudsman has found they rewrote a right to information application outside the law, so they decided that they were not going to release the information requested and were going to rewrite the question to what they wanted, which of course is not how the Right to Information Act should work. What's your level of engagement with the University of Tasmania about the way they operate, their course offerings, and in this instance at least, a fairly loose attitude to the Right to Information Act?

Mr JAENSCH - The University of Tasmania is subject to the same laws as everybody else. It's their job to make sure they're complying with their obligations when it comes ombudsman processes and those matters. That is a matter for them. I've got a couple of different sorts of relationships with the university. One is as the minister responsible for the act that provides for there to be a university, and for it to have an overarching governance structure.

Ms O'CONNOR - It's not a private entity, though, is it?

Mr JAENSCH - It's a university.

Ms O'CONNOR - It's not a private entity.

Mr JAENSCH - I provided evidence to the Legislative Council inquiry recently and explored a range of these matters there with them. We've got the inquiry process that's running from our own Legislative Council at the moment. There's also a national review of higher education provisions in Australia that's underway at the moment which should be reporting by the end of the year. We'll be looking closely at all the evidence raised and the findings of both of those processes and considering if there's scope for improvement to the enabling provisions for a university here.

Beyond that, though, when it comes to things like the compliance with an ombudsman's requirement, those are matters -

Ms O'CONNOR - With the Right to Information Act; it's not the Ombudsman's requirement, it's the act.

Mr JAENSCH - But they are the obligation to the university and they need to comply like anybody else does. The other relationship we have with the university is as a project partner, a commissioner and funder of certain activities from time to time in terms of skills development, research and sometimes in joint projects like through the Inveresk development and the relocation of the Launceston campus, so we have a range of different involvements with them.

Ms O'CONNOR - Do you have any concerns about the course offerings or the way the university appears to have changed in recent years? It's all online now. Answer that question any way you like, minister.

Mr JAENSCH - What we rely very heavily on is that as a university, as well as needing to comply with the RTI Act when it is invoked, the university as a provider of higher education is bound by a whole range of standards and accreditation requirements that exist nationally. It has to make sure it is upholding standards as an educator and a research body. They're not things that the state Government administers but it's what everyone would expect a university to be doing.