VC warns: hundreds of La Trobe U jobs at risk

With predictions that international student numbers will never recover to the 2019 level La Trobe U needs big savings – and that means jobs

Vice Chancellor John Dewar set out the university’s circumstances in a comprehensive message to staff yesterday.

He warned university revenues could be $150m under budget this year and up to $200m (or 23 per cent of previously estimated revenue) next.

And the good times of international student fees may never roll again. “We cannot assume that (international) students will be able to return in large numbers until late in 2021 – and even then, it will take us a long time to rebuild numbers to where they were last year. Indeed, most predictions are that the numbers will never recover to those levels.”

As for the present crisis, after savings already accounted for, LT U is still short $33m-$63m to cover costs – and that means jobs must go. While Professor Dewar said voluntary redundancy and pre-retirement contract offers will be announced today he expects them to only save $5m. The university is accordingly looking for more non-salary savings, including re-starting work on a restructure put on-hold when COVID-19 kicked-in.

He also referred to negotiations between a group of VCs and the National Tertiary Education Union to make temporary savings on staff costs to protect jobs (details in this morning’s issue, above).

But if the budget gap cannot be closed, “we will have no further alternative but to consider further job losses. This is our last resort and we are doing everything we can to avoid this,” the VC added.

Professor Dewar estimated that to make this year’s required savings solely from staff cuts would need “the financial equivalent” of 200-400 jobs and that the 2021 budget gap could equate to 600-800 jobs.