The Guardian • Issue #1979

Campus action as report reveals university job devastation

National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) Statement

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #1979

Uni staff will launch a week of action as a new report lays bare the devastation of COVID in tertiary education, with close to one in five staff losing their jobs in 2021.

The Centre for Future Work analysis, An Avoidable Catastrophe: Pandemic Job Losses in Higher Education and their Consequences, shows that universities and the broader tertiary sector have lost more jobs in the last twelve months than any other non-agricultural sector in the economy.

In that period, over 40,000 tertiary education workers lost their jobs across the country. Over sixty percent of the jobs lost were held by women.

University job losses have been much worse this year than in the first year of the pandemic. An estimated 35,000 job losses were lost at public universities. More jobs disappeared at TAFEs and other public vocational education institutions.

“This report details the wholesale job destruction at our nation’s universities and the future consequences of the Federal Government just letting this sector drift,” said NTEU National President, Dr Alison Barnes.

“It is now incumbent on vice chancellors to step up and secure jobs and careers. The pandemic must not be an excuse for further casualisation and wage theft.

“The Federal Government must also finally play its part. AU$3.75 billion support package would allow universities to recover those lost jobs. Compared to other Commonwealth expenses during the pandemic (including the $70 billion JobKeeper program, which arbitrarily excluded universities), this is a modest and necessary investment.

“Every day I talk to early career academics in their 20s who rely on marking and tutoring work to supplement their PhD stipends so they can become the medical and engineering researchers of tomorrow.

“We are losing a generation of researchers and teachers. It’s an incredible brain drain.

“But worst of all, future students will miss out on A gold standard education system in which to thrive. That’s despite politicians telling us again and again that high-quality education and research is the most important human resource we have in this country.

“How can Australian Universities drive a national economic recovery if they are being drained of expertise and talent?

“This report finds job losses are getting worse, not better, as we go further into the epidemic.

“People forget universities were deliberately excluded from last year’s JobKeeper package – so this year’s layoffs are like getting kicked when you’re down.”

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