Union outraged at $6.5m consulting fee

Monday, 26 May, 2014

The University of Melbourne spent $6.5 million on a private consulting firm as part of a comprehensive business review. The consultation fee has sparked backlash from unions and students.

The university formed the review with advice from Booz & Company, a consultancy arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers. It forms part of the university’s Business Improvement Program.

University of Melbourne Senior Vice-Principal Ian Marshman said the report would save the university money.

“The improvements are expected to provide savings to the university in the order of $70 million a year, which will be reinvested in teaching, research and engagement,” he said.

But National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) University of Melbourne branch president Ted Clark was critical of the $6.5 million figure.

“It’s an outrageous, expensive consultancy figure for what I think is an inappropriate document,” said Clark.

He said some parts of the review had merit. However he is concerned that job losses could bear the brunt of those savings. He said consulting more with staff and spending less on corporate reviewing would have been a better solution.

The student body has given mixed reactions to the news.

Student and Liberal Party member Luke Corcoran feels consultancy fees can be a problematic issue.

“While the use of consulting services is sometimes warranted, universities need to ensure that they are making the best possible use of taxpayers’ money,” he said.

Both the university’s teacher and student unions said they will work to make sure the changes benefit rather than harm their members.

“The most important thing is that it delivers better outcomes for students. UMSU is focused on ensuring that any changes that are recommended will improve services for students,” said University of Melbourne Student Union president Declan McGonigle.

Other universities are facing similar restructuring programs. An investigation by The Australian recently revealed that Victorian universities had paid consulting firms $17 million in fees in 2013.