DR Stephen Weller is upbeat about the rapid growth of Australian Catholic University, and particularly its Brisbane campus at Banyo, despite the axing of dozens of courses before the start of the year.
“There were a number of prospective students who were disgruntled at our decision to cancel a course they had applied for – no question,” ACU’s deputy vice-chancellor and chief operating office Dr Weller (pictured) said.
“We made a decision before Christmas not to take an intake into some courses.”
ACU’s action followed the Federal Government announcement of a two-year freeze on course funding as part of the December 18 mid-year budget update.
Intake into 11 Brisbane-based courses was cancelled including both undergraduate and graduate psychology, undergraduate science, and undergraduate public health.
The university plans to “teach out” its Brisbane psychology courses over the next two years, although new psychology enrolments will be accepted in Victoria and NSW.
ACU also axed 11 courses in Sydney, one in Canberra, seven in Melbourne and four in Ballarat.
Students who had already nominated to enrol in the cancelled courses were informed in time for them to make other tertiary choices inside ACU or other universities.
Dr Weller, who took the reigns as deputy vice-chancellor five years ago, said this year’s potential intake could have meant an extra 500 students in 2018, worth $10 million, but the decision to cancel courses “was a prudent response to the Government’s decision”.
“If we had taken those students they would have been unfunded,” he said.
Across all its campuses, ACU grew by seven per cent last year, and is planning for three per cent per annum growth until 2020. Despite the funding freeze, Dr Weller described ACU’s Brisbane campus at Banyo as “a thriving, dynamic campus” which had doubled its student size.
Brisbane is ACU’s second-largest campus, and in May will open a $30 million extension to the existing campus library, providing greater library floorspace, new facilities for about 100 staff currently working offsite in commercial rented offices, and “innovative learning and teaching spaces”.
“Brisbane is certainly a very strong campus for us … and one of the fastest-growing campuses in the country,” Dr Weller said. “It’s gone from three-thousand students to just over six-thousand.”