Two of Australia’s leading universities have announced that they will lose hundreds of additional jobs as a result of the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
A total of 471 university staff will be fired from the Australian National University (ANU) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
ANU Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt informed staff that 215 positions would be cut as the university aims to save $ 103 million per year from 2021 to 2023.
“The grim reality is, we have to save money, and this means spending a lot less, both on our non-payroll expenses, but also on salaries,” Professor Schmidt told staff via email.
“This is not an action we wanted to take, but it is our only viable option if we want to remain a sustainable, stable university.
“There will be less money in our systems in the near future. This is hard to hear when we have all made so many sacrifices so far. “
On Wednesday morning, Ian Jacobs, UNSW vice chancellor said that staff would be firing 256 positions – 3.8 percent of the workforce – across the institution to recoup $ 39 million in savings.
“I deeply regret the impact on staff who will lose their jobs. All staff affected in this way will receive a severance package and we will do everything we can to assist them in the next steps in their careers,” said Professor Jacobs in an email to all employees.
“I know you will share the pain of any colleague whose role is lost in this reorganization. Unfortunately, UNSW is not isolated from the national and global ramifications of the pandemic.”
Professor Jacobs said the university had already addressed 80 percent of its $ 370 million financial deficit for 2021 through overall savings and a plunge in cash reserves.
But the institution could have saved only nearly half of its $ 75 million in personnel costs.
The new round of cuts follows an additional 250 voluntary layoffs that have already taken place at ANU, bringing the total number of jobs at the institution to 465 this year.
According to the ANU’s ‘recovery plan’ document released by the university, it expects a financial deficit of $ 192 million by 2021, with revenues unlikely to recover for at least three years.
“Our international student numbers have fallen below 2017 levels and our best betting scenario is that it is likely to decline further in 2021 (a reduction of 30 percent from 2019), putting significant pressure on our budget,” the recovery plan said.
Professor Schmidt has asked staff to provide feedback on the changes, saying the new cuts are “painful”, but necessary for the university to “thrive in the years to come.”
“Continue to support each other, seek help and support where you need it, and empathize with colleagues who respond in their own way to these times that are unprecedented in our lives,” he said.
The report indicates that potential savings could be found by limiting travel, reducing contractor usage and increasing investment in greenhouse gas emissions reduction.
Staff were told that the university would need to hold $ 250 million in cash reserves – the equivalent of three months of operating expenses – to ensure expenses such as salaries and bills could be paid.
Wage increases within the institution have been delayed, saving $ 13.5 million – the equivalent of 90 jobs according to the university.
The ANU, like other tertiary institutions, has been hit by a drop in the number of international student arrivals due to travel restrictions for the coronavirus.
In July, the institution suspended a pilot program to fly in 350 international students from Asia, after coronavirus cases rose in Victoria and New South Wales.
Flexible working arrangements will also be offered to employees to reduce the university’s real estate footprint.
More than 11,000 full-time higher education jobs have now been cut, according to the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU).
“NTEU cannot understand that the government can remain idle and watch thousands and thousands of jobs disappear from higher education,” said national president, Dr. Alison Barnes.
“Most of these job losses could have been avoided if the government had made JobKeeper available to college employees.”