University of Wollongong management were right to expect more pain in 2021 after recording an operating loss of about $40 million for the year ending December 31, 2020
Figures released by Universities Australia on Wednesday revealed Australian universities shed at least 17,300 jobs in 2020 and lost an estimated $1.8 billion in revenue compared to 2019.
Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said universities' operating revenue fell 4.9 per cent in 2020 against 2019 figures. The sector is estimated to lose a further 5.5 per cent, or $2 billion, in 2021
"When compared with universities' pre-pandemic budgeted revenue for 2020, this loss is more than $3 billion - which is in line with the sector's estimates made in April last year," Ms Jackson said.
"The brutal reality of COVID-19 has made 2021 even more challenging."
Last month UOW released its interim financial results which showed a "better than expected" operating loss of about $40 m.
Read more: $40m UOW operating loss better than expected
UOW management though expected more COVID-induced pain ahead with substantial recovery efforts set to continue in 2021 and 2022.
In a statement UOW stated the "relatively positive outcome under the circumstances", was achieved via tight expenditure controls.
There were also job losses at UOW, with its 'One-UOW' plan indicating there could be up to 150 staff job losses over the next two years [2021 and 2022].
Ms Jackson said universities such as UOW should also brace for a "multi-year hit" to their revenue from the absence of international students.
"If an international student didn't enrol in 2020, the loss would be felt for what would have been their entire three or four years at university," she said.
"Continuing border closures mean universities face the double whammy of fewer returning students in 2020, and reduced numbers in 2021. The cumulative impact won't be felt just in 2020 and 2021, but for years to come.
"No sector can absorb revenue declines this large without staff losses. At least 17,300 jobs have been lost on campuses in 2020."
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