Uni Sydney financial result: “something to be celebrate”

So “temporary savings” are being eased for ‘21

Good looking back: The university had an underlying net loss of $2.2m last year. It results from $257m in savings and “stronger than expected” international enrolments.

Vice Chancellor Stephen Garton tells staff this is a “remarkable outcome in a challenging and highly unpredictable year.”

The university’s operating surplus is $106m, but this includes hypothecated grants and donations.

Better looking forward: The university forecasts 2021 full-year enrolments will be 9 per cent above budget, potentially meaning $202m more in revenue. International enrolments for first semester are up 18 per cent on 2020, “thanks to the efforts of colleagues across the university, and the willingness of our international cohort to study remotely.”

Domestic student numbers are 7 per cent higher year on year, “in part due to significant growth in postgraduate coursework enrolments for the first time in many years.”

The fuller figures mean an ease in spending restraint. Approvals for replacing existing staff and hiring for new positions will be easier to secure and there will be more project funding. “If we are to remain a world-class teaching and research university, we cannot live in austerity indefinitely,” Professor Garton said.

But, there’s a “but”: “We should not forget, however, that while revenue is higher than expected, our costs continue to rise and we remain short of our pre-COVID ambitions for 2021,” he added.

“A great deal of uncertainty surrounds the opening of international borders for Semester Two and thereafter, and the long-term effect this will have on Australia’s higher education sector.”

Among the fiscal fab four: Uni Sydney is the fourth Group of Eight university to report a way better than initially expected 2020 results. Uni Melbourne announced an $8m surplus, Uni Queensland had a $28m positive return. And in February Monash U announced a $259m operating surplus.

As to the other half of the Group of Eight; ANU’s result, said to be imminent, is not expected to be positive and there is much speculation about UNSW, caught by COVID-19 in the midst of a major expansion. At UWA Vice Chancellor Amit Chakma warned last year that the impact of the university’s major problem is a $70m structural deficit. And earlier this month Uni Adelaide VC Peter Høj  warned staff declining international enrolments means “it is crucial that we prepare for leaner times.”