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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 7909

Senator ALSTON (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (3:05 PM) —On 11 December, Senator Carr asked me a question without notice regarding the Northern Territory University. I undertook to provide additional information. I seek leave to incorporate the response in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows—

The Minister for Education, Science and Training has provided the following additional information in relation to the question asked by Senator Carr.

There is absolutely no truth in the claim that the Northern Territory University (NTU) is to be closed. The University's role as the leading education provider in the Northern Territory and its importance to the economic, social and cultural development of the Territory remains strong. The NTU has unique strengths in teaching and research, particularly related to its regional environment; skilled and dedicated staff; and well-appointed campus facilities.

It is true that the University faces significant challenges as a dual provider of higher education and vocational education and training in the Northern Territory. But these challenges are not insurmountable and both the Commonwealth and the Territory Government have been working with the NTU to help progress reform.

The NTU has made significant progress in implementing reforms and has recently appointed Professor Ken McKinnon A0, a person with a distinguished record in the university sector, as interim Vice-Chancellor to take the reforms forward.

As proof of the Government's support for the university it will be providing an additional $3m over 2002-03 to assist the university in implementing reforms. The Government also announced this week, funding of $lm for the University under the Capital Development Pool Programme for the construction of a computing and learning centre at the Casuarina campus, and $20 million for a Cooperative Research Centre in Desert Knowledge.

The financial performance and financial position of the higher education sector remains sound. Universities' published audited financial statements for 2001 shows that they generally retain strongly positive liquidity, low levels of borrowings and a significant level of assets. This is despite Senator Carr's best efforts to continually undermine the hard work being undertaken across the Sector and attempts, through questions such as these, to target particular universities such as the Northern Territory University, and potentially undermine the confidence of staff and students in the ongoing viability of their university.