When there aren’t options

A La Trobe U staff wellbeing site asks, “is now the time to make life-changing decisions?”

If it comes to compulsory redundancies people won’t have to.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

 Frank Larkins and Ian Marshman set out the financial future for universities – even the ones in the best shape are in terrible trouble. They warn the crisis could mean the end of the unified national system.

Sophie Arkoudis (Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education) argues student comms skills are not always explicitly assessed. They need to be. It’s Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s selection this week for her series on what’s needed now in teaching and learning.

The Australian Association of University Professors wants more support for international students now and less reliance on them for future uni funding.

Workers most at risk of job-loss at Vic unis

Insecurely employed workers are the easiest to remove – in Victoria there are plenty to choose from

A National Tertiary Education Union analysis of Victorian university annual reports for 2019 reveal they employed 52 000 fixed-term and casual staff, on headcounts. This was 68 per cent of their total workforces.

In ascending order, the precariat accounts for 33 per cent of staff at Federation U, 63 per cent at Swinburne U, 66 per cent at RMIT and Deakin U, 68 per cent at Victoria U and 69 per cent at La Trobe U.

Monash U (11 961 and 72 per cent) and Uni Melbourne (13454 and 72 per cent) have the highest numbers, and per centage of workers whose employment is most easily ended.

Overall more women than men are exposed, 29 800 across all eight institutions, compared to 22 000 men.

It’s all pretty much the same as last year (CMM May 2 2019) – the difference now is universities need to save money. Which is a huge problem for an enormous number of people who fear for their futures, and a lesser one for continuing staff.

As Rob Castle (then DVC A at Uni Wollongong) said in 2008, “in many ways the lifestyle of the traditional teaching (and) research academic is totally dependent on the contribution of sessional staff, in the way that Victorian middle-class lifestyles were dependent on the domestic servant,” (CMM September 12 2014). People hired to teach and research will now be asked to do way more of the former than the latter.

U Tas: says stopping a pay rise will save jobs

It’s a plan based on the original job security accord

Vice Chancellor Rufus Black has agreed to allow an independent committee including union reps to oversee university saving strategies. This is a core aspect of the proposed National Job Protection Framework, which the National Tertiary Education Union withdrew after 20 vice chancellors refused to accept external oversight.

However, Professor Black says the university has reached in-principle agreement on a savings plan with campus unions, NTEU and the Community and Public Sector Union, including “independent oversight of staff reductions.”

Union members vote on the proposal today and tomorrow. If passed it will go to an all staff vote June 15-16.

Professor Black says Uni Tas faces a revenue loss of $30m-$34m this year and $60m-$120m next year and in 2022.

The university also commits to addressing the deficits by starting job cuts with; “extensive voluntary options from early retirements through to voluntary redundancies.”

In return, management will ask staff to forego a scheduled 2 per cent pay rise, which would save 50 jobs.

The VC also points to continuing an already announced commitment to, “long-term sustainable staffing numbers, not just cuts to get through.”

Staff numbers will be reduced as we change what we offer, how we deliver it, and how we support it,” Professor Black says.

This is likely in-line with his plan to restructure the university’s courses, reducing degrees on offer from 514 to 120 (CMM March 11).

A “painful path” at UNSW

VC Ian Jacobs warns staff of the, “inevitability of significant job losses at UNSW this year”

“There are already areas of the university, my own office included, which are having to say goodbye to close colleagues,” he tells staff

“In some cases, they are people who have been part of UNSW for many years. It is a painful path that none of us wants to be walking, but one we have no choice but to take if we are to ensure UNSW’s viability through, and after, this pandemic.”

Professor Jacobs adds he will do everything he can to keep job losses “to a minimum,” but does not define what number that will be.

La Trobe U denies it is going broke  

 VC John Dewar warns the university faces financial pain, now it has an image issue

But not quite as much pain as The Age reported yesterday in a story, which began, “the university is at risk of going broke in a matter of weeks unless it secures a financial lifeline from the banks and an agreement from staff to cut wages.”

Which the university flatly denies, “the university is not at risk of going broke,” adding it is talking to its banks about “increased facilities” to “meet our funding requirements in the short-term.”  Good-o, although L T U has previously told staff, “banks are being cautious about any substantial increases in the total debt of the overall university sector,” (CMM May 20).

Coaldrake welcomed

Some HE lobbies were quick to applaud Peter Coaldrake’s appointment as a TEQSA commissioner

Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia was first, saying his “broad understanding of the issues before Australia’s higher education sector will serve both TEQSA and independent higher education providers well.”

The Australian Technology Network also congratulated Coaldrake and “looks forward” to continuing a “strong partnership” with TEQSA.

And Independent Higher Education Australia was also welcoming saying it had “developed a strong working relationship” with Professor Coaldrake during his review of provider category standards, last year.

Uni Adelaide signals savings it could ask from staff

Management estimates income will be down $100m this year and $150m next but there’s a plan

Acting vice chancellor Mike Brooks tells staff the university’s council has approved management considering options under the National Jobs Protection Framework.

That’s the accord which would allow unis to temporarily cuts staff wages and conditions in return for job protections. It was drawn up by the National Tertiary Education Union’s federal leadership and four vice chancellors. The NTEU withdrew the proposal after 20 VCs rejected it, largely over the independent over-sight of institutions’ savings it included.

“It’s important to note that the university has not locked itself into the framework – we may yet decide to opt out and pursue an alternative approach to achieving cost savings. However, at this stage, we are keen to engage with the process and understand the potential opportunities available, including the capacity of the framework to avoid or defer significant job impacts,” Professor Brooks

If it does happen, he mentions two examples of savings that would need to go to a staff vote to vary the enterprise agreement – “a generalised reduction in pay for a temporary period” or an “extended leave period over Christmas.”


Duncan Bentley will become VC of Federation U, in August. He will move from DVC at Swinburne U and replaces Helen Bartlett, who moves to VC at Uni Sunshine Coast.