The National Tertiary Education Union recently released the details of a framework that would allow universities in severe financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 temporarily cut wages up to 15%.
However, the plan has produced a mixed reaction from the tertiary sector.
On Tuesday, the University of Wollongong (UOW) said it would consider alternative solutions to the tertiary union’s national Jobs Protection Framework to address the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A day earlier, Deakin University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Iain Martin told staff that the University would also decline the union’s framework and push ahead with its own plan, which includes axing 400 jobs.
Ten other universities – including the Australian Catholic University, UNSW Sydney and Central Queensland University (CQU) – have also refused to sign up to the union’s framework.
Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said recent modelling by Universities Australia estimated a revenue drop of between $3bn and $4.6bn in 2020 due to a decline in international student enrolments.
“More than 21,000 jobs are at risk over the next six months,” Jackson told The Educator.
“Unfortunately, Deakin will not be alone in losing staff. Universities all around Australia are now having to make very difficult decisions to ensure their ongoing viability. Job losses, restructures and a reduction in services will be part of this”.
Jackson said there will also be significant job losses in Australia’s regional areas.
"Universities in regional and rural areas are likely to be hard hit. They are often the biggest employer in town and play a fundamental role in regional prosperity,” she said.
“The impact of COVID-19 on regional universities is a very serious matter for the communities in which they operate, as well as the nation more broadly”.
Jackson said it is important to remember that a student is still only half as likely to have a degree if they live in regional Australia.
“Redressing that gap has been a core aim for universities over the last decade. The current crisis will make that task harder”.