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Launched in 1998, Melbourne University Private Limited (MUPL) is a commercially based university that serves as the private arm of The University of Melbourne. It is Australia's second private university, after Bond. MUPL was originally established as a cash cow for the public university, partly as a result of the funding crisis in the Australian university system. Although participation in higher education in Australia had almost doubled between 1983 and 1998, Government spending on education, both public and private as a proportion of GDP was in a steady decline.

As a response to this situation, university Vice Chancellor Alan Gilbert looked to aggressively expand the University of Melbourne's brand through various 'entrepreneurial' exercises as an alternative to state-based funding, one of which was MUPL. This Faustian bargain between private enterprise and public interest was reviled by many of the students at the public university, who saw it as both a concession to (if not an endorsement of) John Howard's government policy of funding cuts, and a degradation to the value of their own degrees.

However, things have not gone to plan. Alan Gilbert's hopes of a revenue spinner for the public university have failed to materialize. In 1998 and 1999, MUPL made losses of $A1.1 million and $A1.8 million. Based on leaked documents, Melbourne newspaper The Age earlier this year revealed that MUPL is projected to lose $A7.9 million in 2001 and a further $A8.1 million in 2002. The public university is currently leasing the buildings designed to house MUPL, which is at the very least is providing a cash flow to keep the project solvent.

Originally, MUPL was to be entirely funded by corporate investment with approximately 2800 full-fee paying students. It's private partners are now fleeing like rats from a sinking ship, and to date only 101 fee-paying students have enrolled.

MUPL was recently merged with Melbourne University’s one of its other more successful corporate arms, Melbourne Enterprises International (MEI) suggesting that MUPL's days are numbered as a separate entity and private university.


see http://www.theage.com.au/news/2001/05/14/FFX9CQUONMC.html for news reports, or the official site at http://www.muprivate.edu.au

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