The University of New South Wales has slammed the federal government for excluding universities from the JobKeeper package, after announcing it will have to cut nearly 500 jobs.
The institution on Wednesday said it would axe up to 493 full-time equivalent jobs to address its financial position beyond this year.
But UNSW has also estimated a financial impact of $370 million for 2021, including a $75 million loss after reducing “non-people costs”.
“Despite continued engagement, the federal government chose to exclude universities from the JobKeeper package,” a UNSW spokeswoman told AAP on Thursday.
“While we welcome the government’s funding guarantee and regulatory fee relief measures, more support is needed.
“We cannot continue to navigate this crisis without reducing the size of our workforce.”
UNSW’s call for increased education funding was echoed by two national trade unions.
Community and Public Sector Union NSW assistant secretary Troy Wright said universities were under pressure “long before COVID-19”.
“A lack of proper investment made the sector fragmented and over-reliant on international students,” Mr Wright said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We need JobKeeper in our universities now, and then we need a fundamental rethink of the higher education system.
“(We’re) not looking for a short-term sugar hit to the sector but a sustainable solution that will deliver stability to the system.”
National Tertiary Education Union president Dr. Alison Barnes said the UNSW job cuts were “devastating news” and the responsibility lay “squarely” with the federal government.
“They have stubbornly refused to extend JobKeeper to Australian universities and failed to provide anything close to an adequate support package,” Dr Barnes said in a statement.
The JobKeeper wage subsidy program saw businesses keep workers on their books during the COVID-19 crisis with a fortnightly payment of $1500.
Australia’s jobless rate has reached 7.4 per cent but it is widely accepted that the real rate is much higher, with federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg putting effective unemployment at 13.3 per cent.
Education Minister Dan Tehan said the federal government in April guaranteed universities would receive their full $18 billion Commonwealth funding allocation in 2020 even if they suffered falls in domestic student numbers.
He also said they are autonomous institutions responsible for their own management and staffing arrangements.