Virus hits university’s finances


Tate Papworth

Victoria University is bracing itself for a $50 million hit to its budget as a result of COVID-19.

The university had forecast a total budget of $500 million, but with lucrative international students largely unable to fly over, the university’s coffers have taken a blow.

Victoria University vice-chancellor Peter Dawkins conceded cost reduction measures, including job losses needed to be taken.

“We’ve had a 10 per cent reduction to our budget which means we’ve been cutting back on operating costs, mostly in the form of non-salary costs such as travel, utilities etc,” Professor Dawkins said.

“With less international students able to attend, some staff costs have been going down as well.

“We haven’t reduced permanent staff, but the need to hire casual and sessional staff goes up and down depending on the number students, so that’s down on what we expected and short-term contracts are also being reviewed too.”

Major projects and building around the university’s campuses will be the hardest hit, Professor Dawkins said.

“The biggest thing we’ve been doing is to cut capital expenditure … we have to spend $50 million less so we’ve cut infrastructure projects by about $30 million,” he said.

While it’s a challenging time, the university’s senior executives, including Professor Dawkins, will donate 10 per cent of their salaries for the next six months to help students doing it tough.

“We’ve set up a student support fund … there’s lots of students doing it tough in this environment where work is down, so this fund provides one-off grants for students,” Professor Dawkins said.

“We’ll provide grants for essential living and study expenses for students impacted by job losses or if have to isolate; for tech purposes so they can transition to the online platform; and for crisis support.”

The fund started at $300,000 but has already reached $500,000 and received over 500 applications from students in need.