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Deakin to slash up to 400 jobs across rural and city campuses

University expects $300m drop in operating revenue as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic

Deakin University in regional Victoria has announced that it will cut up to 400 jobs across its five campuses to meet financial losses of around $300 million caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Vice-chancellor Iain Martin told a staff meeting on 25 May that the university was planning to negotiate around 300 redundancies and cut 100 jobs that were already vacant.

“Our recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic is not going to be a V-shaped one,” he said.

“The approach we are proposing, combining debt and cost savings, will ensure that Deakin is in the best position to preserve as many jobs as possible in the medium term, rather than simply seeking to get to a notionally balanced budget over the next 12 months.”

Martin said the university expected its operating revenue to fall by up to $300m in 2021 as a result of the economic impact of Covid-19. Travel restrictions for international students have resulted in declining enrolments, and course refunds have been necessary as students have struggled with technical difficulties in making the switch to online learning.

Martin told the staff meeting that Deakin wanted to avoid measures such as stand-downs, forced leave or voluntary pay cuts of up to 15 per cent.

“Managing 2020 and the next two to three years is about far more than money,” he said.

“As a university, we spend 55 per cent of our total revenue on staff. While we will do everything possible to minimise staff impacts, we must look at our employment costs as well as continuing to minimise other expenditure to adjust to where we need to be.”

Deakin has five campuses in Melbourne and the Victorian regional cities of Geelong and Warrnambool—which is in education minister Dan Tehan’s electorate in the state’s western district farming region. As the local MP, Tehan was involved in a recent campaign to stop the closure of the Warrnambool campus and is a strong advocate for increased funding for Australia’s regional universities.

Deakin is the second regional university to announce job cuts in response to economic losses caused by Covid-19. Earlier this month, Central Queensland University announced it would shed 182 jobs through voluntary redundancies.