The University of New South Wales (UNSW) is set to cut almost 500 jobs as it struggles with much-diminished revenue due to low numbers of international students as a result of the pandemic.
According to the National Tertiary Education Union, there could also be more job losses among casual staff and those on fixed-term contracts whose contracts would not be renewed.
In addition, UNSW will combine three faculties as it responds to the impact of the pandemic and a predicted $370-million budget shortfall.
Universities across the country have been impacted
A drop in revenue has hit universities throughout Australia. According to ABC News, there have already been 600 forced redundancies around the country.
Apart from the decreased income from foreign students, research funding from businesses and external organisations has also been reduced.
UNSW to cut a total of 493 jobs by end of the month
Staff members at UNSW were told on Tuesday afternoon that 493 jobs will go by the end of the month. Voluntary redundancies are being sought, but if this figure is not met then there will be forced job cuts.
“This is a painful but unavoidable reality in the current circumstances,” the university said in a statement outlining the situation.
“To minimise the need for compulsory job losses, a voluntary redundancy program will be offered, starting immediately.”
Institution has already cut discretionary spending
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Jacobs, said UNSW had avoided major job losses until now. Instead it had reduced discretionary spending, casual hours and pay to certain managers and staff.
He stated that the impending redundancies would not target particular departments, but the impact would be spread across the workforce. “I doubt that any part will be spared,” he said.
Student numbers for 2021 could go either way
“In my very optimistic moments, I can envisage lots of international students returning to face-to-face [study] in early 2021,” Jacobs is quoted as saying by the Sydney Morning Herald.
“In my most pessimistic moments, COVID-19 and geopolitical uncertainty mean international student numbers collapse and they don’t even stay with us online.”
He said he was more on the optimistic side. “But if it turns out to be worse, we will have to revisit.”
Union blames job losses on lack of JobKeeper
The National Tertiary Education Union blamed the Government’s failure to extend JobKeeper to the university sector for the job losses.
“Responsibility for these losses lies squarely with Dan Tehan and the Federal Government,” said National President, Alison Barnes.
“They have stubbornly refused to extend JobKeeper to Australian universities and failed to provide anything close to an adequate support package.”