Update on the University of Sydney's financial position

1 September 2020
University's next steps in response to pandemic
The Vice Chancellor wrote to staff today to advise them of the next steps we are taking in an effort to ensure we are as financially prepared as we can be for the uncertain future we face.

Whilst the COVID-19 impact has been significant, student enrolments for Semester 2 at the University of Sydney have been far stronger than we had expected when we revised our 2020 budget. However, a great deal of uncertainty remains over our 2021 enrolments and the course of the global pandemic itself.

Our previous projections for Semester 1 2021 were based on a return to our usual enrolment levels on the expectation that the COVID-19 pandemic was a one-off event. It has become clear that this is unrealistic given ongoing COVID-19 impacts and, in particular, continuing restrictions on international travel.

We have now revised our budget projections and are working on the assumption that we will achieve only 65% of our planned commencing international student enrolment revenue for 2021. This will have an impact on our budget for the next three to four years.

We have done as much as we can to find savings in non-salary areas such as physical and digital infrastructure and research equipment, travel and discretionary spending and also put in place the hiring freeze. This has been an effective short-term fix but has required us to suspend important investments in teaching and research and constrained some of our day-to-day operations.

If we are to continue to flourish as a world-class institution, the financial austerity measures we have lived with this year are not sustainable in the longer-term.

Executive remuneration

Members of the University Executive have agreed to a 20% reduction in their salary for 2020.  This will apply to:

  • Vice Chancellor
  • Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor
  • Deputy Vice-Chancellors
  • Vice-Principals
  • Executive Dean
  • Deans.

Voluntary redundancy program – preliminary consultation process

We are now commencing consultation on a program to offer eligible staff the opportunity to express interest in a voluntary redundancy. It is proposed that this program will generally be open to continuing staff and those on fixed-term contracts with more than 6 months of their term remaining.

We have not set a target number of roles that this voluntary process must achieve.  Any resulting savings this program might provide will assist us in managing ongoing costs, mitigate against a reduction in student revenue and help better prepare us for uncertainties in the future. It may also allow us to ease some of the savings constraints impacting critical areas such as research, student support and the hiring freeze.

We anticipate the program would be complete by November, with staff leaving at the end of the year and into next.

We are hopeful that no further COVID-related measures will be required and that the prudent steps we are taking now will mean we are better able to navigate the uncertainties of the next few years.