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Griffith forced to cut 300 jobs as university hit by 'perfect storm'

Business

Griffith University will shed almost 300 jobs across its Brisbane and Gold Coast campuses after a “perfect storm” of funding strains forced the university to take the drastic measure.

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Griffith revealed the cuts, that will slice deep into the institution’s total workforce of 4500, just one day into the university’s teaching Trimester 3 that straddles the Christmas break.

Griffith University Vice Chancellor Professor Carolyn Evans said it was hoped as many as half of the 299 job cuts would come from voluntary early retirement.

Targeted voluntary redundancies were also being offered. Staff, students and unions will be consulted over the next four weeks to finalise the scale-back plan.

“It’s a sad day for the university,” Evans said.

“There’s many different forces at work here. International students is part of it, the small Year 12 cohort is part of it, changes in Federal Government funding from next year on is part of it, and the freeze in Federal Government funding for many years before that, it’s just created a perfect storm.”

Evans told the ABC that the cuts would be “systematic and strategic” and aimed at administration in order to protect teaching and research roles. However, few departments would be unscathed, she said.

“We’ve tried to spread the burden across the different faculties and groups, so all are taking a small amount of the pain at least,” she said.

Australia’s universities have estimated losses of up to $16 billion over the next four years, and $4.8 billion in 2020 alone, due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19 pandemic that has caused international student numbers to plummet and revenue to crash as international borders remain closed.

Griffith University has previously estimated its losses this year would be in excess of $100 million, with 2021 likely to be worse.

Evans said changes to Federal Government funding under the Job-ready Graduates legislation, that recently passed the Senate, compounded the problems.

The legislation aims to steer students towards courses of national priority and with good employment prospects like teaching and nursing.

To influence student course choices, Job-ready Graduates changes how student contributions are priced. For example, the student contribution for Arts more than doubles to $14,500 a year, while student contributions for teaching and nursing courses drops from $6684 in 2020 to $3950 in 2021.

“It’s been a pretty unfortunate major change when we are facing so many other things at the same time,” Evans said.

“The major impact is that we basically get 6 per cent less funding per domestic student. The coverage that the Government is now giving for domestic students really only just covers their education.

“We used to get a little margin on the top that we could use for things like buildings, computer systems, research. That’s now gone so that’s putting an extra financial strain on the universities, and that is unfortunate on top of everything else that’s happening.”

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