ANU Announces $163 Million Deficit
By Nathan Bow and Ali El-Zein
ANU reported an operating deficit for the first time since 2008 with a loss of $162.4 million in 2020, a $334 million decline from 2019.
According to the University, the transition from surplus to deficit is partially due to a decrease in revenue from tuition fees of $81 million. Between 2019 – 2020, there was a 21% decline of international students in terms of full time study load, from 8,816 to 7,020. There are around 3,000 international students who are studying at ANU remotely.
The university also lost $172 million in investment revenue, and $23 million in commercial revenue on campus.
This means ANU’s deficit is less than the $219 million forecasted in the Recovery Plan. This largely resulted from higher student retention rates than expected, which generated $27 million more tuition income than expected, along with $27 million in income from research grants. The remaining $7.1 million came from variances in accounting adjustments.
The announcement was made in an update to the ANU community by Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt. In his update, Schmidt credited the lesser than expected deficit to the “sacrifices you have all made in the past year” which has ensured the “future-proofing [of] the University from further financial shocks’”.
Schmidt clarified that ANU does not have “$57 million more than we thought we had” but that “it simply means we have a smaller deficit”.
While the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) welcomed the news, the NTEU-ANU Branch President Simon Copland called on the University “to stop sacking people”. Further, he stated “ANU staff are already overworked…continuing to cut [staff] will only increase the stress on workers”.
In 2020, ANU saw a decline of 243 full-time equivalent staff. This puts staff numbers at the same level as in 2018. The University does not expect to exceed the 467 staff cuts that were outlined in the Recovery Plan. At the staff forum, ANU Chief Operating Officer Paul Duldig noted that of the expected cuts, 40 separations are still to be announced.
Schmidt also stated that the University retains a Long-term Investment Portfolio worth $1.2 billion that saw $61.4 million gained as a result of dividends, interest, and capital appreciation.
The University’s reported accounting deficit was $17.7 million. The difference from the operating deficit was predominantly made up from $91 million worth of insurance payouts for damages during the 2018 flood and the 2020 hail storm. Other streams included investment returns restricted to superannuation and endowments, and deferred superannuation expenditure.
This morning, an ANU Staff Forum on the University’s financial position was led by Schmidt via Zoom.
An anonymous attendee asked why ANU had not achieved a surplus similar to Monash University and The University of Melbourne, who reported operating surpluses of $259m and $180m respectively.
Schmidt attributed this in part to ANU’s “structural reshaping” in 2018. This included the decision by ANU to implement a cap on the number of students accepted by ANU to around 19,300 full-time study load equivalents. Schmidt claimed this was an effort to “reduce its reliance on international fee revenue” and increase the ratio of academic staff to students at ANU. Schmidt acknowledged that this was “poor timing” in light of the unexpected financial hardship faced during COVID-19.
Graphics by Joseph Oh
Want to get involved? You can write articles, photograph, livestream or do web support. We’re also looking for someone to yell “extra!” outside Davey Lodge at 1AM. Apply today!