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USyd shuts down clinical school, more redundancies expected

There was little consultation with staff and students.

The University of Sydney is shutting down the Sydney Adventist Hospital Clinical School, after ending its contract with Adventist Health Care Limited (AHLC). 

As a result, 72 Doctor of Medicine (MD) students will be relocated, 21 staff are expected to be made redundant, and a further 3 staff will be moved to another site. Honi understands that students and staff affected by the decision were notified after the fact.

According to the announcement made last Thursday, the University was “unable to reach mutually agreeable terms” with AHLC, and the decision was made due to “current environmental and outgoing budget constraints.”

In a comment made to Honi, the University noted that they will “progressively require fewer training places for medical students” across metropolitan clinical schools — around 10 per cent fewer places in the next five years. This is reportedly due to government restrictions on medical student intakes and redistribution of students to rural programs. 

“The passage of the Government’s Job-ready Graduates funding changes” was also cited as an important point for consideration. 

“Though it costs us considerably more to educate each Commonwealth supported medical student than we receive funding for, we are committed to ensuring we provide a leading experience for all our graduates,” the University claimed. 

Students and staff have expressed concerns about the decision, particularly in light of adjacent cuts to the School of Medical Sciences and the University’s projected surplus for 2020.

One MD student told Honi that cutting placement options “[deprives] academic staff and doctors of teaching positions and [forces] larger cohorts of students into already overcrowded public hospitals.”

Associate Professor Michael Hughes, the Head of the Sydney Adventist Hospital Clinical School, told Honi that he “was not part of the decision making process and was never consulted.”

He also said that he is “unclear as to how this will help the University’s bottom line” as “the clinical school was very cost efficient.”

The move was made in the same year that the MD program was controversially restructured, with the preclinical learning period being halved.

Another MD student told Honi that the burden of teaching is being shifted “from paid USyd academics to doctors in hospitals” who provide on-the-job training without getting additional pay. 

“Management is pointing to their finances… to justify their relentless cuts to teaching staff, while conveniently ignoring the real burden on University finances,” they said.

“The bloated managerial class sits pretty on its multi-hundred-thousand-dollar salaries while making absolutely no meaningful contribution to the teaching and life of the Faculty.”

The University has stated that a “formal consultation process on the change will be conducted with affected staff and their unions.”

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