By Elizabeth Pullen

IN A major shake-up, the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) will cut 130 jobs, around 260 degrees and 751 courses to save $8.5 million a year, it was announced yesterday.

The university will cut degrees from 355 to 93 and slash its courses from 1592 to 841.

Vice-chancellor Bill Lovegrove announced the university's position at a press conference yesterday by saying: "If you keep going with a cost increase of four to five per cent a year and a funding increase less than costs (two per cent), you're going to end up in trouble."

A review program titled "Realising our Potential" has identified the university can avoid pending trouble by saving $8.5 million a year.

The money can be largely saved by cutting staff wages $7.5 million and better managing facilities and classroom space $1 million.

"Students were telling us that many of our programs required change or discontinuing," Prof Lovegrove said.

"An audit of our programs found that 86% of our students were enrolled in just 14% of our courses, which suggested that many of our degrees were now past their use-by date," Prof Lovegrove said.

While students currently enrolled in degrees were promised they can complete them, staff were given no guarantees.

One-hundred-and-thirty staff will lose their jobs; 45 academics, 40 staff from student management, 35 staff from corporate services and 10 staff members from building and facilities management.

"In the short term, (staff cuts) has generated a bit of angst for staff ... but in the long term it should have a better outcome for staff," Prof Lovegrove said.

"We won't outline the staff redundancies today, but the biggest impacts will be felt in the faculty of arts and sciences because they have the largest numbers of degrees that don't have enough students.

"Any downsizing of the university will consider a range of employment options including flexi-work schedules, pre-retirement schemes and the non-renewal of positions when staff leave USQ," he said.

National Tertiary Education Union branch president Brad Astbury said: "It's early days yet, but staff are unsure about the process of consultation. So far there's just been passing on of information, instead of a true two-way consultation process.

"They (USQ) haven't consulted with the unions on the numbers of staff cut. We have to ensure the process outlined in the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement is adhered to. There is a process to go through to make people redundant and redeploy them," Mr Astbury said.

But regardless of when and how staff cuts will occur, Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce's president Rod Scott said the loss would reverberate throughout the community.

"I think at the moment Toowoomba will be faced with challenges keeping the second Range crossing and given the drought, it doesn't need to loose any more jobs," Mr Scott said.

"Given that USQ is one of the biggest employers in town and education is the largest employment sector in town ... we just can't afford to lose contributions from the education sector.

"But on the other hand, if USQ is taking remedial action to keep the university alive, the business community understands that one has to cut their cloth to fit," Mr Scott said.

The university aims to have completed course cuts by semester one, 2009.

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