The University of Newcastle, Australia

Vice-Chancellor updates University of Newcastle staff about savings measures

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

The University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky AO today updated staff on measures to help our institution achieve financial sustainability amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The University started 2020 in a strong financial position with no debt and strong student enrolment numbers. As previously announced, the University is forecasting a reduction in revenue for 2020 at $58 million. The VC has also previously advised staff that the organisation will need to find $35 million in savings in 2021.

Among the savings measures outlined to staff today was the consolidation of five faculties into three. The current faculties are the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment; the Faculty of Education and Arts; the Faculty of Business and Law; the Faculty of Science; and the Faculty of Health and Medicine. The naming and new make-up of the three groups will be determined in the coming months, with the change due to be completed by the end of the year. The measure is aimed at reducing administrative overhead.

The Vice-Chancellor also updated staff on the course optimisation program to reduce complexity and overlaps in courses. This program will see the University offer fewer, better-resourced courses and programs that offer more student-focussed education.

The organisation is continuing negotiations with Unions and has reached in principle agreement on measures to reduce annual leave, long service leave and to offer an early retirement scheme. These measures include a requirement for staff to take ten additional days of their annual leave in 2021.

The early retirement scheme is proposed as an option for staff 60 years of age and above and would include incentives to take up the scheme.

Negotiations continue regarding delaying staff salary increases that are due in September 2020 and September 2021 and delaying salary increments that happen on the anniversary dates of commencement.

The Vice-Chancellor outlined that the measures are aimed at achieving financial sustainability and protecting as many jobs as possible.

“We know that we need to achieve savings and my goal is to do so in a way that aligns to our strategic plan and protects as many jobs as possible,” Professor Zelinsky said.

“Our negotiations with Unions must conclude by 10 August and I’m committed to providing an update to staff by that date.

“We continue to see strong interest in our courses for Semester 2 and we know people are looking to our University to help them retrain and reskill and help our regions recover from the impact COVID-19 is having.

“We’re absolutely committed to providing an outstanding student experience and are excited about having students back for Semester 2 from next week,” he said.

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