ACU and UNDA face challenges due to COVID-19
Catholic universities are suffering an economic fallout from the current pandemic with the Australian Catholic University (ACU) to begin implementing a financial impact plan from next month.
ACU has forecast a loss of nearly $126 million over the next three years. Its revenue shortfall for this year is expected to be around $22 million, rising to $50 million in 2021, and just over $54 million in 2022.
It comes amid similar massive losses across the higher education sector primarily due to the decline in international student numbers.
At the University of Notre Dame Australia, a spokesperson said that as its international student enrolments are modest it has suffered less financial impact than many other universities.
“A budget and operational costings review is being undertaken to ensure the long-term sustainability of the University,” the UNDA spokesperson said. “While we have identified areas of savings, we are also looking to identify new growth areas.
“Nonetheless, we are looking at a very different higher education landscape in the future. The University’s management team and the board are working on a new framework addressing our particular circumstances.
“This focus is intended to not only improve our operating model but provide a sustainable financial position moving forward.”
ACU has outlined a combination of cost-saving measures and reinvestment of surpluses as part of its recovery management plan approved by the ACU Senate.
Its Vice-Chancellor and President Greg Craven told staff in a video message last Friday that while the university faced serious challenges, retaining staff was a key priority but that some losses could not be escaped.
“THIS IS AN UNAVOIDABLE REALITY WITHIN A SECTOR-WIDE IMPACT OF COVID-19″
“This is an unavoidable reality within a sector-wide impact of COVID-19 and the decline in student numbers and revenue,” Professor Craven said.
“As always, the wellbeing, safety and success of our people are our highest priorities. We are doing all we can to keep losses to a minimum.”
As part of the ACU’s cost-saving plan it will reduce its surplus by $53 million and salary costs by $42 million up to 2022 and cut $31million in non-salary measures including capital expenditure.
The salary costs would be reduced within the enterprise agreement through reassessing work requirements, reducing casual and sessional employment and leave management. An ACU spokesperson that there are no current plans to cut subjects or courses.
Professor Craven said the approach was designed to save a significant number of jobs and the crucial functions that go with them, but that some losses could not be escaped.
He said that the university is in a relatively good position and he was confident the strategic measures would assure it a sustainable future.
Both universities have adapted to challenges in teaching and learning online, developing new initiatives and committing funding help to support students affected by the pandemic.
Published with permission from Catholic Weekly.