Uni Adelaide job cuts to deal with deficits

The pandemic will have a “long effect” on international student enrolments VC Peter Høj warns staff

The problem is: Vice Chancellor Peter Høj warns staff the university faces continuing deficits, $22m next year and $47m in 2023 on present trends. Management plans to make up the shortfalls with $30m in savings and $20m in new revenue.

“We have to act decisively now to not be in a position we can’t retrieve,” he told staff.

International student fees make up 35 per cent of revenue not tied to a specific purpose and their numbers are expected to fall from over 4500 now to just over 2500 in 2025.

The solution: Proposals for savings include 130 professional staff positions, merging the existing five faculties into three and “exploring efficiencies in administrative services”.

There will also be a review of the academic workforce, “understanding staff activity relative to revenue generation” but no target is set.

The VC and COO Bruce Lines took staff questions at a hugely attended staff forum yesterday,  100 or so in person and a reported 1500 on-line.

Pain to come:They did not respond definitively on specifics – the formal process is not expected until September.However, Mr Lines did make it clear there would be more happening than last year’s VRs. “With the number of staff we lost through the voluntary rounds things are very stretched and if we go through another voluntary round we will again lose people from areas that we have no control over and we will risk unbalancing the university. Unfortunately, the time has come to be more targeted and more deliberate about how we are going to go forward.”

Last year 119 professional staff took voluntary redundancy, out of 157 VR departures.

Professor Høj put the best spin he could on what is coming, “If we deal with this matter well I hope the institution will emerge from a very difficult period in a position of strength relative to other universities to continue very proud 147-year history of serving the people of South Australia.”

But it’s the Feds’ fault: To which the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union responded last night; “after the sacrifices that staff made last year as part of the Enterprise Agreement Variation (EAV), it would be an understatement to say that staff are disappointed with the news presented by the university at the forum today.”

However, the union blames the Federal Government, which has, “quite deliberately cut funding to the university sector, along with actively excluding Universities from JobKeeper support last year.”

“The NTEU, acknowledges that the university has been upfront with staff about the situation and has committed to further, extensive consultation with staff. …We believe that listening to the views and ideas of staff is the only way for a path forward that minimises the pain that job losses will bring.”