Deakin Uni and Coles in private deal

Issue 

By Jeremy Smith

MELBOURNE — Deakin University and Coles New World announced a new private vocational and higher education institution on April 14. Although details of the new "Coles Institute" are sketchy, the announcement signals a new stage in the privatisation of education.

The Coles Institute, which will commence operations in August, will be similar to other corporate universities operating in the United States and Britain, such as McDonald's Hamburger Universities and those connected to Motorola and the Body Shop. It will train Coles' new employees in everything from shelf-stacking to management.

Deakin University's commercial wing, Deakin Australia, will supervise the institution. Courses will be conducted through "modes of flexible delivery", presumably with a significant on-line component. The Coles Institute will offer certificates, competency-based diplomas, graduate diplomas and certificates, and a masters degrees. All will be accredited university awards.

The new development does not seem to be a one-off initiative. Federal education minister David Kemp launched the body with the government's blessing. Kemp's comment that the deal "embodies everything that we have been striving for in education and training reform" is in line with the government's agenda of privatisation and cuts.

Deakin's vice-chancellor, Geoff Wilson, made it even clearer that such private developments are directly linked to the contraction in public funding for higher education. "The only money universities can use to offset cuts are the profits from these ventures", he said.

The National Tertiary Education Industry Union is seeking clarification about the conditions that will govern the new body's employees. The union is seeking coverage of the new work force and wants staff to be employed under the existing terms and conditions of Deakin University.