After the release of the ANU Recovery Plan in October last year in response to the financial deficit caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, scores of jobs have been cut across the University. These cuts have coincided with the disestablishment of 529 courses in the past year.

According to the University Recovery Plan website, 273 staff have taken voluntary separations. However, this does not include casual staff. As explained by an ANU spokesperson, “Casual staff numbers cannot be determined as contracts can cease at any time from either party.” Additionally, the University has disestablished a number of staffing positions, both academic and professional, across its colleges.

The largest college at the University, the College of Science, has experienced significant cuts. 75 staff have taken voluntary separations. Despite introducing several new positions, the University has disestablished staff across multiple schools. In the Research School of Chemistry, four academic and four professional roles have been disestablished, while in the Research School of Earth Sciences five academic and twelve professional positions have been cut. Similarly, at the Research School of Biology, there has been a reduction of seven professional staff. Likewise, the Recovery Plan sees five academic staff lost and a further net loss of thirteen professional staff in the Research School of Physics, and one academic and three net professional positions in the Research School of Astronomy and Astrology. The Centre for Public Awareness of Science and the Centre for Advanced Microscopy have lost 1 academic and 1.5 professional staff, respectively. 

Similarly deep cuts have been seen in the College of Arts and Social Sciences, centred around the School of Art and Design (SOA&D) and the Arabic program. Across the College, thirty-five staff have accepted voluntary separations. Two workshops within the SOA&D have been disestablished, the Furniture workshop and the Jewellery and Object Workshop, along with the Animation and Video program. However, teaching for the latter two workshops will continue for students already enrolled in the program.The Ceramics and Glass workshops remain separate workshops but with a combined teaching team. In addition, a single team will carry out the administration for the School of Art and Design and the School of Music. The Arabic program has been cut from three full-time staff to one full-time academic staff member. The ANU justifies this with declining student numbers in the last two years.

The College of Health and Medicine is also being overhauled. Despite threats to cut the Eccles Institute of Neuroscience entirely, the College will instead be reorganised into three schools: the John Curtin School of Medical Research, the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, and the School of Medicine, Psychology and Health Leadership. Furthermore, up to five academic positions and ten professional staff positions will be disestablished. An additional eighteen staff have taken voluntary separations.

In the College of Engineering and Computer Science, there has been a restructure of the academic organisational units, to cut down from seven units to three. In addition, eleven academic staff positions and five professional staff positions have been disestablished. Seventeen staff have taken a voluntary separation.

No college has gone unscathed. Within the College of Asia and the Pacific, 27 staff took voluntary separations, 13 of which were teaching staff. Nine voluntary separations have also been taken within the College of Law. And, at the College of Business and Economics, there was a net reduction of six positions. 

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has criticised these extensive cuts. NTEU President Simon Copland argues that, “The cuts to higher education funding for the past 20 years … show a desire by our government to polarise access to tertiary education and complete the transformation into a for-profit industry.” Copland also contends, “the actions by ANU over the past 12 months show a similar trajectory, with appalling cuts to staff and courses which maximise profit and prestige at the expense of staff mental health and the student learning experience.” 

In the months ahead, NTEU members will continue to organise across the campus advocating for better pay and conditions. The NTEU is particularly concerned about “dangerously high workloads and stress caused since ANU sacked 10% of staff, the lack of genuine consultation in decision making, and the epidemic of wage theft via casualisation” and also “condemn the related course cuts.” The Union hopes to engage with the entire ANU community including students about these changes. 

The figures in this article are taken from the ANU Recovery Plans found here.

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