Unis lost 17,300 jobs in 2020 but worst is yet to come

The Australian National University will have about 322 fewer staff according to its COVID-19 recovery plan. Picture: Jamila Toderas
The Australian National University will have about 322 fewer staff according to its COVID-19 recovery plan. Picture: Jamila Toderas

Australian universities lost 17,300 staff and an estimated $1.8 billion in revenue in 2020, but even greater losses are expected this year.

New figures from peak body Universities Australia show universities' operating revenue fell 4.9 per cent in 2020 against 2019 figures.

But revenue is expected to fall by a further 5.5 per cent or $2 billion in 2021.

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said the federal government's $1 billion for research made a real difference to maintaining jobs and projects but there was more pain to come for the sector.

"We always said universities would face a multi-year hit to their revenues," Ms Jackson said.

"If an international student didn't enrol in 2020, the loss would be felt for what would have been their entire three or four years at university. Continuing border closures mean universities face the double whammy of fewer returning students in 2020, and reduced numbers in 2021.

"The cumulative impact won't be felt just in 2020 and 2021, but for years to come."

The 17,300 lost jobs came from a head count of full-time, part-time and casual staff who had lost work as reported by Universities Australia's 39 members.

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National Tertiary Education Union ACT division secretary Dr Cathy Day said more jobs were expected to go at ACT universities.

"At the ANU,10 per cent of its permanent or fixed-term staff are going to leave. In addition to that about 1000 casuals have already lost their jobs," she said.

"They can't just go to another university because every university is in the same boat."

The Australian National University is forging ahead with its COVID-19 recovery plan which will cut up to 322 positions through a combination of voluntary separations, involuntary redundancies and attrition.

The University of Canberra will make a decision on whether redundancies are necessary after the census date in March.

Last year the university's recovery plan focused on reducing leave liability, cost savings, executive pay cuts and improving productivity, leading to a better financial position than expected.

It is understood there have been no job losses at Australian Catholic University's Canberra campus while Charles Sturt University indicated about 100 jobs could be made redundant across its campuses.

This story Unis lost 17,300 jobs in 2020 but worst is yet to come first appeared on The Canberra Times.