Australian Catholic Uni cuts 110 jobs, mostly in Melbourne, as enrolments shrink, costs rise
15th February 2023

The Australian Catholic University will cut more than 110 full-time jobs due to plunging enrolments in its key fields of study and a forecast $30 million deficit, with staff at its Melbourne campus set to take the biggest hit.

The university told staff on Wednesday morning that it had “been forced to take urgent action to identify savings and balance the budget”.

The ACU’s North Sydney campus will shed almost 30 full-time jobs as part of a broader redundancy round.Credit:Daniel Munoz

The cutbacks have been announced while construction of a new, 12-storey campus building in Fitzroy nears completion. The $250 million Saint Teresa of Kolkata building was supposed to “accommodate student and staff growth over the next 10 years”.

The redundancies will target professional services staff, who have grown in number while the academic staff headcount has remained relatively static.

“Faced with a forecast financial deficit exceeding $30 million, we have been forced to take urgent action to identify savings and balance the budget,” interim provost Professor Meg Stuart told staff in an email.

“Among the measures we are considering, we are proposing to reduce professional services staff costs by $16 million (110 FTE positions) in the current academic year.”

A draft professional services change plan, also emailed to staff, reveals 113 full-time equivalent positions will be cut under the plan, including 40 in Melbourne, 36 in Sydney and 18 in Brisbane. The regional campus in Ballarat will shed two positions.

Stuart said it was “difficult news to share”.

“We understand that the actions we are taking may generate concern among staff, especially those who stand to be directly affected,” she said.

The university has experienced dramatic declines in student enrolments in key fields of study in recent years, the draft plan states, including a 39 per cent reduction in education enrolments at the Ballarat campus since 2020, a 23 per cent reduction at Sydney and a 20 per cent drop-off at the Brisbane campus. There has been a 30 per cent reduction in arts enrolments at the Melbourne campus.

The forecast $30 million deficit has also been caused by rising staff costs and the rising cost of most aspects of delivery, the plan states.

“While student enrolments have been declining for some years, our workforce has grown, and our professional workforce has grown disproportionately and beyond our academic workforce,” the plan notes.

The multi-state university has already imposed curbs on expenses, such as staff travel, on capital projects and consultancy.

ACU’s deputy vice-chancellor Dr Stephen Weller said the Melbourne development commenced in 2018 and had been designed to respond to a doubling of student enrolments at the Melbourne campus.

“Despite slowed growth during the global pandemic, the Melbourne major development will not meet the entire space requirement of the university in Fitzroy,” Weller said.

“The university will continue to rely on leased premises in Fitzroy, although the new building will significantly reduce our lease commitments.”

More to come.

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