La Trobe University has opened up a second round of voluntary redundancies and Victoria University has revealed a plan to cut up to 190 jobs as the gutting of Victoria’s university workforce continues.
The measures follow the recent departure of 239 La Trobe employees in an earlier redundancy round.
La Trobe University has opened up a second round of redundancies.Credit:The Age
La Trobe has also told staff it plans to cut its total costs by 20 per cent in the next few years, and reduce the range of academic disciplines it teaches in response to huge revenue losses caused by COVID-19.
Remaining staff will be expected to lift their productivity by 20 per cent as the number of full-time students per full-time staff member is lifted from 8.7 to 10.5.
In a draft 10-year strategy for 2020 to 2030, the university predicts it may lose up to 25 per cent of revenue by the end of next year and that a full recovery from the effects of the pandemic could take three to five years.
“We will be a smaller institution measured by revenue, staff and students for the foreseeable future,” the draft strategy says.
Online courses, forced on the higher education sector this year because of remote learning requirements, will become a prevalent and permanent part of the university’s make-up, the strategy says, noting this will help La Trobe attract students from outside its geographic catchment.
“We will offer at least one online program in each of our fields of education and double our revenue and margin from online courses by 2024,” the strategy states.
It also details a plan to reduce the range of subjects La Trobe offers, without naming any specific areas.
The university has previously warned it faces revenue losses of between $400 million and $520 million between this year and 2022 due to the loss of full-fee-paying international students.
“The scale of revenue losses we face cannot be managed by undifferentiated cost cutting,” the strategy says.
Meanwhile, Victoria University has revealed a plan to cut between 100 and 190 full-time roles in the next 18 months, as it seeks to cover a $70 million loss of expected revenue this year and next year as a result of COVID-19.
Vice-chancellor Professor Peter Dawkins said the number of positions lost would depend on staff’s willingness to accept a variation to their enterprise agreement.
“Without an enterprise agreement variation, we would need to reduce our number of staff by about 190 [full-time equivalent] over the next 18 months, which might create a situation of having to use forced redundancies,” Professor Dawkins said.
Job losses could be limited to 100 and managed through voluntary measures if staff agree to a variation, he said.
Other universities have also sought to vary enterprise agreements to limit job losses. University of Melbourne staff rejected a proposed 2.2 pay cut earlier this year, leading the university to announce a plan to cut 450 jobs. Staff at La Trobe and Monash University have voted in favour of salary reductions to try to limit job losses.
Universities have not qualified for the federal government’s JobSeeker program, despite shedding thousands of jobs this year.
The federal government set the threshold for access at 50 per cent lost income, compared with 30 per cent for most other industries.
Sarah Roberts, Victorian assistant secretary of the National Tertiary Education Union, accused the federal government of abandoning the university sector and said the cuts at La Trobe, which as well as Melbourne has campuses in Bendigo and Shepparton, would worsen regional unemployment.
Lisa Chesters, federal member for Bendigo, said the cuts could have been avoided if JobKeeper had been extended to universities.
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Education Minister Tehan said on ABC Radio on Thursday morning that the government had already committed to providing universities with $18 billion this year.
“This is a serious challenge that our university sector is facing at the moment, because they relied on income from international students, and obviously we cannot get international students into the country at the moment,” Mr Tehan said.
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