University announces plan in response to COVID-19 pandemic

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The University of Melbourne has announced its plan to combat an almost $1 billion revenue shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan was endorsed by University Council today.

Following a major review to examine options to reduce costs and protect as many jobs as possible, the University today announced an anticipated reduction of approximately 450 continuing positions in both the academic and professional workforce as a result of the impact from COVID-19. There will also be an impact on casual and fixed-term roles. Detailed analysis is being undertaken to determine the roles that will no longer be required.

Vice-Chancellor Duncan Maskell said the workforce changes are an unavoidable consequence of the pandemic. “The University is facing a loss of revenue of nearly $1 billion over the next three years. Our current rate of expenditure is not sustainable. We must reduce our costs to match our operational requirements.”

Professor Maskell said: “Over the last six months, we have already taken a number of steps to significantly reduce our costs and drawn down on our financial reserves to help support our staff and students through this crisis. The decision to reduce the size of the University’s workforce has been a last resort measure to combat the financial crisis caused by COVID-19.

“The global pandemic has meant many thousands of international students have not been able to join the University this year as a result of the border closures and the impact of this will continue to be felt for years to come. With fewer students, the University must be smaller and we will need fewer staff.”

Professor Maskell said: “This is an extremely difficult decision at a challenging time for our community. It affects many dedicated and hard-working staff members who have worked tirelessly for the University, especially over the last six months, some of whom will leave us by the end of the year. However, these steps are necessary to ensure that the University not only survives this crisis but is well-positioned to thrive in the future. We are also very aware that people are seeking clarity and a level of certainty about their own futures.”

Professor Maskell said that extensive work completed by the University’s Executive, together with both the Resources and the Future State Taskforces had enabled the definition of the framework within which change would have to happen. “The global situation may change, but based on all of the information we have available and our current modelling, we know the financial challenge facing the University is significant and we must take action now, in order to ensure the University’s survival into the future.”

Professor Maskell said he was committed to continuing to engage with staff in relation to the change program and to positioning the University for success in the future. “All the steps and measures that we take will be consistent with our commitment to transparency, equity, diversity and inclusion within our community.” ​

Work is continuing on the detailed change plan and will be developed with staff and senior leaders. The final plan is expected by mid-September.

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