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La Trobe cuts jobs after AUS$165m revenue fall

La Trobe University in Melbourne has lost some $165 million in revenue during 2021 compared to 2019 as a result of fewer enrolments of international students, it has revealed.

International enrolments in higher education across Victoria have decreased by 20% compared to the national average of 11%. Photo: Unsplash

The university would also cut down senior executive remuneration by more than 25% from pre-Covid levels

Like its peers in Australia, La Trobe has relied heavily on revenue generated through incoming international students, but with fewer students arriving in Australia, the institution has had to resort to job cuts, with the redundancies running to the tune of 200 FTE positions (full time financial equivalent).

It noted that its restructuring plans would result in an overall saving of $28 million. Redundancies would be seen more in the professional domain than in the academic, as the university is committed to cause as little disruption as possible in the courses and quality of studies it offers and its prowess in research.  

In addition to job cuts, the university’s professional domain will become more centralised to avoid duplication of jobs and become more efficient in the delivery of support for the core activities of teaching and research at the university.

Underpinning this plan of organisational change is a digital transformation strategy, which will aim to help the university become more innovation and tech-driven, and thus enable it to achieve better outcomes in future.

The pandemic presents us with an opportunity to re-envision our role and impact in a post-Covid world – a world that will be changed profoundly,” said John Dewar, the vice-chancellor of La Trobe.

The pandemic presents us with an opportunity to re-envision our role and impact in a post-Covid world”

“These changes will affect higher education no less than other sectors of the economy and society. We must reshape. If we start now to plan a clear way forward, there is an opportunity for universities like ours to flourish.”

However, the National Tertiary Education Union has criticised the cuts, with NTEU La Trobe branch president, Alysia Rex, urging the institution to find other options and alternatives to involuntary redundancies, especially given the loyalty and sacrifice shown by staff over the past year.

“The federal government has shown complete disregard for the university sector during the Covid-19 pandemic and this puts the university in a difficult position,” Rex added.

La Trobe, however, seems to be heading towards a leaner and more efficient structure — one that is characterised by fewer verticals.

Supporting its Strategic Plan 2020-30, a key aspect of the university’s Transformation Program focuses on centralisation, consolidation, and re-alignment of professional functions, including going from a two college model into a single provost model.

The university would also cut down senior executive remuneration by more than 25% from pre-Covid levels.

Universities in Victoria have been hit harder than universities in other Australian states, as international enrolments in higher education have decreased by 20% compared to the national average of 11%.

The commencing international enrolments in Victoria’s universities are set to go further down by 45% in the second half of 2021. As the impact of Covid-19 rages on, and the revenue losses for Australian universities continue, the job cuts in the sector may be far from over.   

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