Dowton’s dilemma: Macquarie U VC explains why employment is frozen

There’s more budget news to come but staff will take some convincing

What’s happened: VC S Bruce Dowton explains the hiring freeze (CMM Friday) in a memo to Macquarie U management. “The external circumstances in which we operate have changed significantly. Enrolment growth domestically and internationally has slowed significantly at a time when our base operating costs continue to rise.”

What’s the problem: Last year’s financial plan assumed a $28.6m deficit this year, “closer to break-even” in 2020 with an operating surplus in 2021. “At that point, these assumptions were based on a continuation of growth in enrolments.”

But while Professor Dowton does not detail projected problems with enrolments, he states planned 2020 spending would lead to “a significantly worse position.”

What happens now: The university executive is accordingly reviewing 2020 budget bids. The vice chancellor adds the abolition of the Services and Strategy portfolio and announced break-up of the Faculty of Human Sciences are part of the budget-repair process.

Work is also underway on “a range of short-term initiatives to bring us towards a break-even budget for next year.”

What’s next: Professor Dowton advises, “in the coming days and weeks, colleagues from the executive and I will be engaging further with the university community to assist with a clearer shared understanding of our finances and options for addressing the challenges and opportunities ahead.”

They need to start talking soon.  The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union has already held protests over the breakup of the Faculty of Human Sciences and calls on Professor Dowton to “meet with the university forthwith to explain the current status of University finances and to provide details of why there appears to be a budget “black-hole.”

MU observers also suggest senior academics are considering a direct appeal to new chancellor Martin Parkinson and the VC for a halt to the abolition of the human services faculty pending an explanation of why university finances requires it.



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