UNSW, ANU to each shed more than 200 jobs as revenues plummet

The University of NSW and the Australian National University in Canberra will each shed more than 200 full time jobs as the institutions grapple with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their budgets.

UNSW Vice-Chancellor Ian Jacobs announced on Wednesday the university would cut 256 jobs, or 3.8 per cent of its workforce, in a bid to find $39 million in savings.

ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt announced the job losses on Wednesday as part of an update to staff on the university’s financial position.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt also announced job loses on Wednesday, informing staff the university would need to cut 215 positions in order to save $103 million per year up until 2023.

The COVID-19 pandemic has levelled an enormous blow to the finances of universities across the country, largely due to significant declines in international student fee revenue as a result of border closures.

In a email briefing to staff, Professor Jacobs said UNSW had relied on its savings and reserves to deal with 80 per cent of the $370 million financial gap it faced for 2021, while a voluntary redundancy program had achieved almost half of the remaining $75 million shortfall.

"I deeply regret the impact on staff who will lose their jobs. All staff affected in this way will receive a redundancy package and we will do all that we can to assist them with the next steps in their career," Professor Jacobs said in the email.

"Unfortunately, UNSW is not insulated from the national and global impact of the pandemic."

At an ANU staff forum on Wednesday, Professor Schmidt said the university had saved up to 90 jobs as a result of staff agreeing to a pay rise deferral in 2020 and 2021 amounting to $13.5 million.

But he said further savings on salaries were required, and would be achieved through further voluntary separations, with forced redundancies a last resort.

"This is not a course of action we wanted to take, but it is our only viable option going forward if we want to remain a sustainable, stable university," Professor Schmidt said in the note to staff.

The ANU also released a "recovery plan" document, which stated the university's financial projections for the next three years to 2023 showed revenue was not likely to grow substantially above the level achieved in 2020.

"Our international student numbers are down to below 2017 levels and in our best guess scenario will likely fall further in 2021 (a 30 per cent reduction from 2019), which is a significant strain on our budget," the document said.

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