AUSTRALIA'S university sector has been among the hardest hit by the impacts of COVID-19.
International students have become a rich financial lifeline for universities in an increasingly competitive market but the closure of our borders in response to the pandemic has shut off those rivers of gold.
Charles Sturt University has not been immune to the challenges and announced earlier this month its own transformation program, Sustainable Futures, to "reshape and reposition the university to ensure Charles Sturt delivers excellence".
Vice-chancellor Professor Andrew Vann said the program was in response to an $80 million drop in revenue, largely related to its international program, and would include "changes to the workforce, courses and campuses and a review of non-salary expenses".
No wonder, then, that Bathurst MP Paul Toole has gone public with his concerns over the operations of CSU.
Mr Toole acknowledges the difficulties posed by COVID-19 but says CSU's financial troubles began long before the pandemic.
It 2015, CSU recorded a net surplus of $38 million; just five years later its net financial position was an $80 million deficit.
There are some difficult questions to be asked and some tough answers to be given, and Mr Toole says the university is not being transparent enough with the communities it serves.
"I'll continue to ask the hard questions of this Board on behalf of our community and remind the board that CSU was set up to serve southern and western NSW with campuses at Albury, Bathurst, Dubbo and Wagga Wagga," Mr Toole said.
He particularly seeks an assurance from CSU that the Bathurst campus will not be downgraded and that marquee courses - including nursing, teaching, journalism and engineering - will continue here.
The whole of Bathurst has an interest in CSU's future and the community deserve some transparency..
We all agree this is a difficult time for the university sector but we also want to be confident that there is a path forward for CSU.
Just last year the university revealed its plan to establish a greater presence in Bathurst through the establishment of a campus in the CBD but its own admission that there must now be a review of campuses casts serious doubt over that dream.
Mr Toole's questioning of the university's operations are timely and warranted, and we'll all be keen to hear the answers.