Australia’s universities and their academic and administrative teams are facing a bloodbath as funding dries up due to the pandemic and large numbers of jobs will have to be cut.
Guardian Australia reports that some regional universities are planning to close entire campuses. Among them are the University of Central Queensland in Rockhampton, Southern Cross University in northern NSW and Charles Sturt University in Bathurst.
“Experts say the number of job losses over the 38 universities could reach into the tens of thousands and would affect administrative staff to professors,” the newspaper says in an article published on Thursday, 4 June.
Revenue from foreign students drops
At the heart of the problem is a significant drop in revenue from international students. In some institutions this accounts for close to 40% of total revenue. In addition, the government’s JobKeeper programme is not available to universities.
The University of NSW, which has one of the largest exposures to international students, has estimated its losses at up to $600-million in 2020, with possible losses of $450-million in 2021 and again in 2022.
“The UNSW senior executive team, including the vice chancellor, have taken a 20% pay cut. More than 1 000 staff – about 20% of UNSW staff – also volunteered to reduce their salaries or their days of work – some in exchange for leave. These measures have raised around $15-million in savings,” Guardian Australia said.
Jobs to be cut at many institutions
Among the jobs being lost are 99 forced separations and 197 voluntary redundancies at the University of Central Queensland. At Deakin University in Melbourne, 419 jobs are to be cut.
The University of Wollongong says that if proposed pay cuts are not accepted by staff, then around 300 jobs will need to go.
In a report published in mid-May, ABC News quoted a Rapid Research Information Forum (RRIF) paper titled ‘Impact of the Pandemic on Australia’s Research Workforce’. The document estimates that 21 000 full-time equivalent jobs in the university sector are at risk during the next six months, with 7 000 estimated to be research-related academic positions.
The RRIF is made up of Australia’s leading scientists, researchers and academic institutions. The thrust of the paper was on the research work carried out at Australia’s universities.
“Gaps in Australia’s intellectual and technological capability will worsen … as research labour supply declines and the pipeline of researchers breaks down, risking a winding back of gains in cultural diversity and gender balance,” the paper said.