The pandemic finance hit that never happened

In Features this morning Frank Larkins and Ian Marshman explain how analysts (including them) were wrong on the pandemic’s impact on public university finances

Despite predictions of Covid causing $8bn losses in 2020-21 the public university system emerged from the peak pandemic years in better shape than in 2019.

While total revenues were $36.5bn in 2019 they were $38.89bn in 2021.

Certainly international student income was down, $1.2bn over 2019-21 but what was not anticipated by analysts was universities stronger starting position immediately prior pandemic. Plus other income streams were strong, higher domestic enrolments, the $1bn in Commonwealth one-off research support, and windfall revenue from the sale of system-owned international student services provider IDP.

“With the benefit of hindsight, it is evident that as a sector Australian universities have been very successful in managing the financial challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis from 2019 to 2021. The primary focus on overseas students overlooked the potential for other compensatory revenue-raising streams,” they write, HERE

As to what 2022 was like, the figures , “will continue to be strong, but perhaps with limited revenue growth given the special one-off financial factors in 2021.”