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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

College closer to merging with uni

The Mercury: College closer to merging with uni [30nov05]

THE Australian Maritime College has agreed in principle to affiliate with the University of Tasmania.

Although the internationally renowned AMC, which is considered one of Australia's top tertiary institutions, stressed yesterday that no deal had been done with the university, a closer relationship between the two appears likely as the AMC aims to secure funding.

Both institutions will discuss their future with federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson tomorrow.

The AMC has relatively low student numbers and high capital spending and changes to funding rules involving increased reliance on equivalent full-time student load mean the college may have long-term funding fears.

In the controversial ranking system used by the Federal Government to reward top-performing institutions, the AMC was ranked No. 2 in the country -- while the university was 34th out of 38.

In Launceston the AMC and university campuses are side by side and already share some facilities.

AMC vice-president Paul McShane said yesterday speculation that a merger would occur was premature -- it was simply a possibility to be discussed.

"There are all sorts of possibilities. Call it a takeover, a collaborative alliance, a merger, whatever you want," Mr McShane said.

He said it was also possible the AMC could continue as a separate entity, although the council recognised the benefits of greater collaboration with the university, particularly in terms of developing a pre-eminent marine science facility in northern Tasmania.

The issue of recurrent funding was peripheral.

The merging of the two institutions has been an issue for the past decade, but former AMC principal Neil Otway, who resigned in July, was opposed to such a move, and tried unsuccessfully to turn the college into a university in its own right.

In exchange for a share of the university's equivalent full-time student load funding and the ability to attract more international students by being a university, the AMC would contribute its status as a leading specialist institution equipped with some of the best learning and research aids in the southern hemisphere, including the hi-tech towing tank and ship simulator.

Bass MHR Michael Ferguson said from Canberra yesterday he would prefer the AMC to remain independent.

Mr Ferguson said he planned to attend the meeting with Dr Nelson.


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