Australia/September 01, 2021/By: Matilda Boseley/Source: https://www.theguardian.com/
Vice-chancellor Iain Martin says international student numbers will not return to pre-pandemic figures in the foreseeable future
Deakin University has announced plans to terminate up to 220 employees as the tertiary education sector braces for a “second wave” of job cuts.
During a town hall conference on Tuesday, the Deakin University vice-chancellor, Prof Iain Martin, announced a plan to cut between 180 and 220 jobs, citing rising staff costs and falling revenue, the latter exacerbated greatly by the pandemic.
Although he said not all the problems were caused by Covid-19, the vice-chancellor cited closed international borders, preventing international student intake, as a major factor.
“It is now expected that the faculty’s international student load will not return to pre-pandemic figures in the foreseeable future,” he reportedly told staff.
Deakin University has already undergone significant job losses in the pandemic, shedding about 400 positions last year.
The National Tertiary Education Union’s Deakin branch president, Piper Rodd, said staff were “devastated” by the news of more cuts.
“It was a surprise … but it was always kind of hinted at, that there might be a phase two to this process,” she said.
“This comes at a time when university workers are under enormous, unprecedented workload pressures, time pressures and not to mention the rolling lockdowns that have impacted all of us for like the last two years.”
Rodd said the move “represents a massive failure” both by successive federal governments and the university management.
“The professed rhetoric has always been, for the last two years, that it’s because of our heavy reliance on international students, which you know is partly true. But it goes to my broader point that university management has been complicit with governments in defunding higher education and relying on using ‘cash cow’ international students, who have been really badly treated out of this pandemic.”
Staff were told there would be a two-week “consultation process” with changes hoped to be finalised by the end of the year.
In a statement, provided to the Age newspaper, Martin said the cuts were needed in order to secure Deakin’s financial future.
“There is no doubt that this is an incredibly challenging time for both Deakin and the wider university sector in Australia,” the vice-chancellor said.
“What Deakin delivers matters. It matters to our students and staff, our local communities, Victoria and Australia, and through our many connections and networks, it matters globally – now more than ever.”