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17,000 uni jobs lost to COVID-19

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17,000 uni jobs lost to COVID-19

Media Release 3 February 2021

Australian universities shed at least 17,300 jobs in 2020 and lost an estimated $1.8 billion in revenue compared to 2019, according to figures released today by Universities Australia.

Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said universities’ operating revenue fell 4.9 per cent in 2020 against 2019 figures. The sector is estimated to lose a further 5.5 per cent, or $2 billion, in 2021.

“When compared with universities’ pre-pandemic budgeted revenue for 2020, this loss is more than $3 billion - which is in line with the sector’s estimates made in April last year.”

“The brutal reality of COVID-19 has made 2021 even more challenging.”

“We always said universities would face a multi-year hit to their revenues. If an international student didn’t enrol in 2020, the loss would be felt for what would have been their entire three or four years at university.”

“Continuing border closures mean universities face the double whammy of fewer returning students in 2020, and reduced numbers in 2021. The cumulative impact won’t be felt just in 2020 and 2021, but for years to come.”

“No sector can absorb revenue declines this large without staff losses. At least 17,300 jobs have been lost on campuses in 2020.”

“Universities have worked hard to limit job losses by halting infrastructure projects, making tough decisions about courses and making savings wherever they could - but the effect of COVID-19 on the higher education sector has come at a real cost,” Ms Jackson said.

“Unfortunately, it is probable we will see further reductions this year. The loss of any - and every - one of those staff is personally devastating, bad for the university community, and Australia’s knowledge reservoir.”

“Universities welcomed the injection of $1 billion for research announced by the Government in October last year. It was an important acknowledgement that the jobs of the future are created by R&D, and that universities are central to national recovery.”

“Universities provide the ‘standing army’ of research capability that can tackle the challenges and seize the opportunities.”


“Universities Australia will continue to advocate for the needs of the sector at this time of crisis and will continue to talk with Government about funding sustainability,” Ms Jackson said.