Alternative solutions to be pursued
The University of Wollongong (UOW) will consider alternative solutions to address the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic rather than participate in the national jobs protection framework negotiated by representative vice-chancellors and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU).
The decision was announced to staff on Tuesday 26 May by UOW Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings CBE, after considering the proposed framework in light of UOW’s unique circumstances, including its immediate challenges and long-term strategic outlook.
“The University’s leadership team has carefully analysed the NTEU’s Australian Universities Jobs Protection Framework and, while we greatly appreciate the efforts of all those involved and share some of their objectives, the University will not be a signatory to this memorandum.
“The framework does not offer the best pathway to confront the challenges we must deal with to prepare UOW for a sustainable future.
“The proposed national framework offers some important short-term reductions in pay and conditions for staff to help address the adverse financial impacts of the pandemic.
“However, we must plan for a longer period of time, given the scale of the recession and its likely impact on international student numbers in 2021 and 2022. The framework restricts us from taking that view.
“COVID-19 has brought permanent, far-reaching changes to our world and to higher education globally. International relationships have changed; course delivery has changed; and the expectations of students, communities and governments have changed.
“We must restore UOW to long-term financial sustainability while preparing for a post-COVID-19 world.
“Our priority remains protecting the quality of the learning experience we offer our students while preserving employment as much as possible.
“As we pursue long-term savings, we will be considering alternative approaches that allow us to protect jobs while positioning our organisation for the future,” Professor Wellings said.
The sharp decline in international student enrolments and campus accommodation occupancy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant financial impact on UOW, with an anticipated 2020 budget shortfall of about $90 million, which is expected to compound in future years.