A report released yesterday into the viability of Australia’s 38 universities as a result of the Covid19 crisis lists Southern Cross University (SCU) as one of the seven most vulnerable in Australia.
SCU is based in Northern NSW and has campuses in Coffs Harbour, Lismore and Tweed Heads/GoldCoast and is a major employer and economic driver in those areas.
The report by Professors Ian Marshman and Frank Larkins of the Centre for the tudy of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne confirms the need for strategic policy choices to be made by all institutions with respect to major expenditure reductions and internal restructuring. Such actions are presently being reported in the media on an almost daily basis. It is concluded from the present study that for some universities the scale of the adjustment required may be too great for solely an internal response. More government assistance will be required if the current sector-wide fabric is to survive.
The most vulnerable universities assessed to be at highest risk are Monash University, RMIT, UTS, La Trobe University, Central Queensland University , Southern Cross Univerity and the University of Canberra.
This finding is based on both the optimistic and pessimistic scenarios done by the authors who find that these universities do not have sufficient available reserves to cover predicted shortfalls in overseas student fee revenues. They will have to undertake drastic cost-saving measures and develop new revenue-raising initiatives to mitigate serious consequences that may last for many years.
The following figures outline this finding;
The above estimate for SCU argues on an optimistic scenario that by the end of 2021 the university could have a defecit of $53m and on the most pessimistic scenario a deficit of $108m.
SCU Vice Chancellor announces major restructure
Staff at SCU were told about the projected defecits in a 10 minute virtual Town Hall adddress by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Adam Shoemaker (pictured above), yesterday morning.
The Vice Chancellor flagged pay freezes, voluntary reduced hours and changes to teaching delivery timetables among a range of proposed initiatives also outklined in an email sent to all staff yesterday and which is reproduced below;
Thank you very much for your attendance at this morning’s Town Hall. For those of you who could not attend, the key points I covered were:
- Southern Cross University stands at a critical juncture. The decisions and actions that we take together over the coming weeks and months will either serve to secure our future; or see us lose the right to determine it.
- There has never been a more important moment for transformation.
- We face at least a $15 million core funding gap for this year—2020. The latest projections are that we must bridge a further, additional core budget deficit of approximately $43 million in 2021-2022. $58m in total.
- We will be taking forward a formal proposal to cancel the next two wage increases which had originally been approved in our Enterprise Agreement (that is, those which otherwise would have been paid on 1 July 2020 and 1 July 2021).
- If any member of staff voluntarily wishes to reduce their work fraction from 100% to 90% (i.e. by working a 9 day fortnight) we would welcome that offer. And we would guarantee 100% superannuation coverage for the duration of that reduction.
- We have established a new dedicated email address (removed) — to field any questions which colleagues might have in relation to today’s proceedings. We will summarise and respond to them in a timely way as we build our future transformation.
I understand these messages are as challenging for you to hear as they are for me to deliver. But the truth is this: we are not returning—we never will return—to the way we were before COVID-19 struck. There is no return to an ideal state. There is a new world of work and of academic work ahead of us as we build the New Southern Cross.”
Staff sources have told CCO that redundancies are almost inevitable on top of recent hiring freezes and with many casual academic and support staff also not having had contracts renewed for Semester 2 which starts on 6 July.
The staff union the NTEU has asked for meetings this Thursday with the SCU Executive Management Group to discuss these recent announcements and is holding an all staff virtual meeting today.