The future of Deakin's Warrnambool campus is secure despite news that jobs could go as part of a university-wide effort to soften the financial blow of the coronavirus pandemic, the tertiary education sector union says.
On Monday Deakin announced it would cut 400 jobs across all campuses as revenue fell by up to $300 million next year as the number of international students decreases due to travel bans.
Acting president of the National Tertiary Education Union Deakin branch Dr Michael Callaghan said he hoped the $14 million agreement between the Federal Government and uni to save the campus in 2016 - and redundancies that occurred then - would be taken into account during the latest cutbacks.
Dr Callaghan said that while in the past there had been a tendency to look at Warrnambool "as the little toe and just cut it off", he now got the impression that Deakin had "grown up and seized the Warrnambool campus for the potential benefits it has".
While 100 of the 400 projected losses were vacant positions that wouldn't be filled, the cuts represented between three to five per cent of the uni's total workforce of 10,500. There are 120 staff at the Warrnambool campus.
Dr Callaghan said while the university had made it clear that the burden of the savings would be shared across all sites, the changes wouldn't destablise the Warrnambool campus
He said that on balance - when taking into account the numbers of jobs slated to go, possible protections from the $14m deal and investments made in the campus such as hydrogen and commercial partnerships forged with local businesses - "the future of the Warrnambool campus is secure and promising".
Dr Callaghan said over the past four years the campus had introduced a diversified portfolio of activities that went beyond just teaching.
"It's current operations are as lean as they possibly can be, and the projects, the diversification all of those things, paint a very good future for that campus moving forward," he said.
"There does need to be cutbacks but I don't think they're going to be as dramatic as some people think they're going to be.
"I'm not defending the university, but every industry is going through turmoil over COVID-19. It would be irresponsible for the university not to be making some changes.
"What has been announced by the vice-chancellor has been entirely reasonable given the circumstances, and they are taking a moderate approach to the financial future of the university."
However, he said every job that was lost was a "pure tragedy", and the union was disappointed the uni had not agreed to its jobs protection framework which would have significantly reduced the number of jobs that would have to go by sharing the burden of the losses across all salaried staff and the executive by cutting incomes by 15 per cent.
Dr Callaghan said the government, or a third party, needed to have a good look at the remuneration of executive staff at universities.
In the late 1990s, Warrnambool had the largest proportion of international students but that is no longer the case.
Last year it had 34 international students - a number it had hoped to lift to 150 by 2022 before COVID-19 hit.
Wannon MP and federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said the government was confident Australia's university leaders were up to the challenge of minimising the impact of COVID-19 on their operations, by having a greater focus on domestic students, online education and greater alignment with industry needs.
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