Uni financials: Monash U stands out in a tough 2020

Revenue was down at universities across the country last year, according to new federal figures and earnings took huge hits – but not at Monash

How much: International student fee income across the system accounted for 26.6 per cent of public system revenue in 2020, compared to 27.3 per cent in 2019. In contrast investment earnings collapsed by 57.7 per cent, down $927.4m to $1.3bn.

Savings: Overall costs were effectively stable, largely due to cuts. While staff expenditure was up 5 per cent across the board, this is likely attributable to the one-off costs of redundancies.  Universities with significant staff cuts that had the highest per centage increases in staff expenditure include ANU (15.8 per cent) RMIT (12.3 per cent) and UNE (12.3 per cent).

The unis hit hard: The biggest international ed providers dropped big dollars. Uni Melbourne was down $59m, which was 6 per cent of international student earnings, UNSW was down close to $100m, 12 per cent of income. But Uni Sydney was actually up $43m, a 4 per cent rise.

In contrast universities that took big hits to their international student income include, ANU ($80m, a 24 per cent decline), CQU ($53m, 30 per cent) Charles Sturt U ($40m, 26 pet cent) La Trobe U ($40m, 21 per cent), Federation U $38m (31 per cent), Southern Cross U ($23m, 23 per cent)

The bottom-line: While nearly all institutions had a worse net operating result than for 2019, less than half, 16, were in deficit. Which looks not bad in a terrible year, until it is compared to 2019, when just four were in deficit.

However Monash U did well, with a 16 per cent improvement in its net operating result, to $267m. In contrast Uni Melbourne’s margin was down 49 per cent, to $178m.

What it means: For universities that rely on international students 2020 was the downward slope before a probable precipice. While enrolled internationals stuck with study, 2021 was not a great year for starters and unless something extraordinary occurs between now and February there may not be many in first semester 2022.