Bethany Hiatt Education Editor
Staff at WA’s biggest university are bracing for cuts after fewer students than expected this year signed up to study, result- ing in a $16 million shortfall.
Curtin University Vice- Chancellor Deborah Terry warned staff a review of its first-quarter financial position had revealed that faculties would have to meet new sav- ings targets because first semester enrolments were below budget forecasts.
“While our latest enrolment figures are higher than last year, they are below budgeted levels,” Professor Terry said in a memo to staff.
“Our student income for 2017 is estimated to be nearly $16 million lower than budget. Given the importance of main- taining our strong financial position, savings are required across the university.”
Professor Terry acknow- ledged that many faculties had trimmed their budgets and the need to find more savings would put further pressure on
the delivery of services. “How- ever, we believe these addition- al savings are a necessary measure to ensure the longer- term financial sustainability of the university,” she said in the memo.
Professor Terry yesterday told The West Australian that lower than anticipated enrol- ments from international stu- dents and a fall in demand for engineering and science cours- es meant full-time enrolments were about 300 below target.
As a consequence, Curtin’s forecast revenue position was about 1 per cent below budget. She said the push to find savings was likely to mean delays in making staff appointments, starting projects or holding off on buying new equipment.“I think it will be tough but manageable,” she said.
The prospect of looming 2.5 per cent efficiencies, to be imposed in the next two years under the Federal Government’s proposed reforms to higher education, had prompted Curtin to take a “prudent approach” this year.
“We know that we’ve got to be well positioned to brace for these further cuts,” Professor Terry said.
National Tertiary Education Union WA division secretary Gabe Gooding said it seemed Curtin had been “overly optimistic” in budgetary forecasts.
“It’s unfair for staff to be put under further pressure and have increased workloads as a result of a failure of budgetary forecasting by the senior management,” she said.
Professor Terry said predicting student numbers was a complex exercise. About 150 Curtin staff lost their jobs last year because of faculty re- structures or because contracts were not renewed.
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