Universities used the pandemic to restructure staff

Casual staff took the hit

According to Frank Larkins (Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education), all but three universities reduced their FTE numbers in 2019-20, with casuals accounting for 65 per cent of the 11,143 departures, despite being 14 per cent of total employed staff.

“Faculties and departments have been restructured, subject offerings reduced and other curriculum reforms implemented to very significant staff reductions in some universities,” Professor Larkin writes in a new paper for MCSHE.

He identifies 15 institutions with the highest FTE staff decreases. For total losses Murdoch U and UTS lost least, with 10 per cent each, Bond U (19 per cent) and La Trobe U (20 per cent) had the highest departures overall. Of the 15, Charles Sturt U reduced casual staff by the lowest per centage, 19 per cent. The three highest reductions of casuals were at Uni Wollongong (48 per cent), Bond U (51 per cent) and La Trobe U (59 per cent). “On a headcount basis the proportion of casual staff terminates is considerably larger,” he states.

Professor Larkins also examines changes in staff numbers, net financial position, student fees and investment returns in 2019-20 to find no consistent pattern. ANU, for example had a 22.9 per cent decline in its net financial position but reduced staff by 5.9 per cent whereas Western Sydney U finances were down 0.4  per cent with a staff cut of 18 per cent.

The sector average was a 4.5 per cent decline in net financial position and an 8.1 per cent reduction in staff numbers.

As to the overall institutional impact of reductions in casual staff, Professor Larkins  points that, “these reductions represent major changes to operational teaching and research and administrative delivery profiles within universities.

MCSHE publishes Professor Larkins’ comprehensive analysis  HERE