Uni Melbourne says 2021 headline result not as good as it looks

The university’s mysteriously delayed annual report (CMM May 4 ) for 2021 can’t have been held up for want of good news, with some results better than pre pandemic

The university discounts its net surplus of  $584m – $406m better than 2020, stating that it includes endowment and investment income, including $252m in unrealised investment gain which accounting rules require to be included in income. However  the “underlying operating result” it wants to attract attention is still  $147m.

Operating income was up nearly 10 per cent on 2020, to $2.7bn and student EFTS grew by 4.3 per cent, although International EFTS (21 839) were down 2000 on 2019.

Overall operating expenditure was $2.5bn (up 3.9 per cent) with non-staff outlays 9.9 per cent higher at $1bn.  At $1.5bn employee costs were “in-line with 2020,” with “salary increases offset by cost reduction measures.”  Presumably there were costs attached to 210 staff taking voluntary redundancy, 168 involuntarily being made redundant and 45 senior academics leaving under an “enhanced retirement scheme.”

The annual report shows the operating result* was the highest in five years and $129m ahead of pre-pandemic 2019. The operating margin was 5.5 per cent, 4 per cent higher than in 2019.  * defined as (accounting surplus less net discretionary financing income and expenditure, infrastructure grants and endowment philanthropic income

However Vice Chancellor Duncan Maskell warns, “we anticipate a large operating deficit” in 2022 and that “the university must continue its careful and prudent approach to financial management.”