Victoria’s major universities have collectively posted more than $100 million in losses since the border closure last year

  • New financial reports show some of Victoria’s major universities dipped tens of millions of dollars into the red over 2020.
  • RMIT, Swinburne, and La Trobe are among the tertiary institutions to post sizable operating losses, linked to COVID-19 shutdowns and border closures.
  • Some universities posted operating surpluses, but further disruption is expected through 2021.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

The brutal impact of coronavirus shutdowns and international border closures on Victoria’s education sector has been laid out in a slew of annual reports, which show more than a hundred million dollars in operating losses for some of the state’s major universities.


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As noted by The Age, annual reports from the state’s largest tertiary education providers were tabled in Parliament Tuesday.

The filings come more than a year after Australia first shut its border in response to the COVID-19 crisis, severing Victoria’s university sector from the international students who comprise a significant portion of total enrollments.

RMIT posted the largest single operating loss, declaring a $55.9 million operating loss over 2020 — a sharp downturn from the $62.8 million surplus noted one year prior.

That downturn, and a 4% decline in year-on-year revenue, was “predominantly driven by border closures and other travel restrictions, most notably a reduction in revenues associated with international students who were unable to enter, or return to, Australia to complete their studies,” the university noted.

Swinburne also faced a rough slog in 2020, posting an operating deficit of $48.5 million, down from a surplus of $34.8 million in 2019.

“Tough decisions were needed in 2020 to ensure Swinburne is a viable institution and will be able to thrive into the future,” wrote Swinburne Chancellor Professor John Pollaers, OAM.

Among those decisions: The loss of 600 employees between December 2019 and December 2020, including 366 staff in full-time equivalent roles.

La Trobe University was rocked by an operating loss of $8.4 million, as international student levels fell by 1,325 from December 2019 levels, and full-time equivalent staff numbers declined by 465.

In earlier reports, some institutions did post operating profits, most notably Monash University, which hailed a result of $267.3 million, and the University of Melbourne, which recorded a $9 million result.

Both institutions recognised significant cost-cutting measures as contributing factors, with the University of Melbourne acknowledging redundancies contributed to its profitable report.

Deakin University, which presented an operating surplus of $17.2 million for 2020, predicts 2021 will run at a deficit.

With the loss of international students projected to cost Australia’s tertiary education sector tens of billions over the coming years, all eyes are on what comes next.

In March, the Federal Government voiced its hopes of international students gradually returning from 2022.

A group of leading Victorian universities, including Melbourne, Monash, RMIT and Deakin, has offered to pay for students’ mandatory quarantine requirements in an effort to accelerate their return.

But such plans have yet to receive the green light. Given Australia’s quarantine system under renewed scrutiny, and the lagging state of the vaccine rollout, the latest annual reports show universities preparing for a continued slog.

“We are considering 2021 to be a bridging year,” wrote RMIT chancellor Dr Ziggy Switkowski.

Source: Thanks