University of Melbourne Vice Chancellor Glyn Davis is under mounting pressure to explain recent job cuts after leaked internal documents uncovered a $265 million donations plan to line university coffers.
The “University Campaign Plan”, launched last July, aims to tap private donors for millions of dollars in fresh funds, according to a report in next month’s edition of student newspaper Farrago.
The philanthropy push, currently in a pre-launch “quiet phase”, includes initial plans to raise up to $100 million with a target of $265.4 million by 2015. It already contains around $50 million and was expected to be publically launched next July.
The campaign will employ 50 full-time staff, including a well-paid “Chief Advancement Officer” to head it up. Leaked meeting minutes say that a glossy brochure, dubbed a “Book of Dreams”, will be used to spruik the initiative.
The Medicine, Dental and Health Sciences faculty will receive $86 million by 2012, while Arts, VCA and music and Economics and Commerce will receive around $25 million, according to the report. The Science faculty will receive $9.3 million. However estimates show the additional income is yet to be attached to the faculties’ bottom lines.
Davis blamed the recent axing of 220 staff cuts in the Economics and Commerce, Medicine, Engineering and the Victorian College of the Arts on the $191 million gouging of endowment revenue in the wake of the global financial crisis. He claimed the cuts would save the university around $30 million.
But the endowment fund, buoyed by the sale of Melbourne IT for $85 million a decade ago, is believed to contain around $800 million. Critics say cuts to teaching could be easily avoided by tapping the fund or the $50 million received under the new donations plan.
Ted Clark, head of the National Tertiary Education Union’s Melbourne University branch, said the fresh push for private funds was hypocritical.
“While we would endorse any effort by the University to raise money, it is dubious to blame the global financial crisis for the sacking of 220 staff, and then try to recoup more than the amount saved through donations.”
Mr Clark said it was foolish to proceed with the cuts because the hit to the university’s reputation could end up dissuading potential donors.
Davis has blamed a reduction in government funding for a shift towards private sources of revenue. The University has modelled itself on United States institutions which rely heavily on the largesse doled out by wealthy benefactors.
Some say Davis’ personal friendship with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has also inhibited more militant appeals for public funding. Last December, Crikey revealed that Mr Rudd attended Mr Davis’ son’s birthday at the Prince Alfred hotel in Grattan Street, abutting the University.
A spokesperson for the University, Christina Buckridge, said that she wasn’t aware of the new fundraising plans.
“The way you do major fundraising is that you don’t tell anyone about it before you announce it”, she said.
Ms Buckridge said donations are linked to specific outcomes and are not factored in to ongoing operations. The University’s central budgeting process for next year was still proceeding, Buckridge said.
The University is on edge over the fallout from the cuts and the well-attended public protests over cuts to the VCA. This morning, following Crikey‘s queries, its media unit despatched an officer to confront Farrago staff over the source of the leak.