We, like all Australian universities, have been impacted by COVID-19. We are also dealing with pre-existing challenges. Together, these challenges require decisive action. On 4 May 2020, we announced that we were commencing Sustainable Futures, a program to remediate our financial position, and ensure we are sustainable well into the future. The program will focus us to build on our strengths and ensure our future is financially and academically sustainable.
We are transparent about the financial impacts. In March 2020, we projected a budget deficit for 2020 of $49.5 million however with proposed savings through the Sustainable Futures program we expect to reduce this deficit in 2020 and continue to aim for a return to a balanced budget by the end of 2021.
- We projected a deficit for 2020 prior to COVID-19 – this has been exacerbated as a result of COVID-19
- We are aiming to save through changes to our course profile, staffing structures and a review of operational expenditure
- We are also focusing on revenue generation opportunities
- Our senior executives have undertaken a 10 per cent pay cut for 2020.
We launched our revised University Strategy in 2017 focused on our students, our community and our internal capability. Our strategic direction has not changed, but we need to streamline our courses, operate our campuses sustainably, and meet the needs of the market with quality and viable course and subject offerings. To achieve these objectives, we must implement an operating model that is structured to meet our needs, delivering distinctive degrees and quality teaching, learning and research.
Despite the impacts of COVID-19, our actions will meet this current challenge so we can continue to be an institution that offers academic excellence sustainably for the long-term.
We are reviewing our course profile. We are looking at the courses and subjects we offer, the modes we offer them in, and the number of intakes, to determine the best mix of offerings that will appeal to our students. We are reviewing whether courses are a good strategic fit, financially viable, have sufficient market demand based on current enrolment figures, and provide a high quality and distinctive learning experience for our students..
Staff are providing feedback on this activity through to 13 July so that we can rebuild our course profile together. These changes could be:
- reducing intakes;
- moving a course to be offered only online, rather than on-campus;
- reducing specialisations that are not resonating with our students; and
- where a course has not attracted the minimum number of students over a period of years, we may teach it out.
We have already identified more than 600 subjects for discontinuation, from a total of 4751 offerings in 2019. This is around a 13 per cent reduction. To put this in practical terms, we have been in situations where we have offered hundreds of subjects – maintaining the administrative load around these – with no, or fewer than 10, student enrolments. 550 offerings were identified in 2019 to have no student enrolments.
This is inefficient and we need to scale back in areas like those. Subjects with only a few students are not only financially non-viable, but do not deliver a great student experience. We are spread too thin, and this also affects the quality of our subjects offered.
We’re also developing a number of positive opportunities across campuses in medicine and allied health, education, information technology and business studies. With a more focused effort, we believe we can enhance the quality of student experience in certain disciplines and fields of study.
While there will be changes, it will mean we can deliver better quality courses, and grow the courses that appeal to the market. Overall we can ensure excellence in the courses we offer and remove the extra workload for our academics of courses that are not attracting students.
We expect to have final decisions on courses in two phases: the first by August and the second by September 2020.
No student will be disadvantaged. It’s important for everyone to know that even if a course will no longer take enrolments with a view to discontinuation, every student in the course will be able to finish their course with us.”