Australian universities and technical colleges will receive a much-needed financial boost following a decision by the department of defence to outsource more than Aus$45 million (Pounds 18 million) of its education and training budget.
The department has some 15,000 of its military and civilian personnel in training at any one time. As part of the process of eliminating in-house education, the department has established a special Australian Defence College in Canberra that will sub-contract special courses.
Formed from the merger of the former Joint Services Staff College and the Australian College of Defence and Strategic Studies, the Australian Defence College employs 20 staff. But studies director Ross Thomas said they will form the nucleus of a far bigger institution so that by January 2001, the college will have more than 200 employees.
That will occur after three other defence institutions - the staff colleges of the army, navy and air force - are moved to the ADC campus and become part of the defence college.
"We expect that other institutions may also be grafted on," Mr Thomas said. Courses that fall into the national education framework will be outsourced.
Last month, the college signed a three-year contract with a new private offshoot of the University of Melbourne - Melbourne University Private - to provide academic services in designing, developing and delivering courses in strategic studies. It was the first big government contract for MUP and is worth Aus$2.2 million.
"Academics from MUP and from other universities as organised by that university will offer defence and strategic studies from next May to November for military and civilian personnel from both Australia and overseas," Mr Thomas said.
He said the course would be aimed at staff who were at colonel level or their equivalent and those who completed the course would gain credit towards a masters degree from the University of Melbourne. Up to 50 students would be enrolled each year, with half coming from Australia and the others from the Asia Pacific region.