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More massive staff cuts at Macquarie University

Professional and Academic staff members to lose jobs ahead of 2021 academic year.

Macquarie University has called for $50 million worth of redundancies coming into 2021. 

A briefing paper released by the university revealed cuts worth $25 million to professional and academic staff, respectively. University management was unable to confirm how many staff will be affected.

This is on top of 300 requested voluntary redundancies earlier this year. The university will likely move to forced redundancies in early 2021 if there are insufficient volunteers. Faculties will determine forced redundancies by recent staff performance in conjunction with a two-page statement submitted by the individual. 

The move is a drastic change since August, when Vice-Chancellor Bruce Dowton told The Australian Financial Review that the University would minimise staff losses. 

Currently, Macquarie receives a quarter of its long-run income from non-teaching activities including medical services and rental income. The AFR suggested the 2019 dissolving of the Faculty of Human Sciences, in conjunction with these diverse streams of income, would sustain the university through the impact of COVID-19.

The cuts to academic staff could have a substantial effect on course structures at Macquarie. 

“Permanent staff are being told to manage their workloads by basically cutting corners teaching wise,” says a tutor from Macquarie. “So instead of giving a live lecture, the lecture might be recorded from last year and recycled. Instead of a tutorial, you might have a message board, or you might have zoom tutorials with like 40 students instead of an on-campus tutorial with 25.”

A casual tutor at Macquarie told Honi that essay assignments are being discouraged in favour of automatically marked online quizzes. 

The university has neither denied nor confirmed these changes: “Any changes will also be guided by Macquarie University’s Operating Plan for 2020-2024” they said. “Among its aims are the streamlining of our course suite… and a simplification of structures to align with the University’s strategic goals and ambitions in a context of constrained resources.”

According to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021, Macquarie University has the worst number of students-to-staff ratio, with 65.5 students to every teaching staff member.

A spokesperson from Macquarie University has confirmed that the Executive Group will not be taking a pay cut. In response, they cite decisions made prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic such as a lower annual percentage salary increase than the rest of the University staff population.

“We really resent that we have this Vice-Chancellor who makes more money than the Prime Minister. We have all these executives who are driving really, really nice cars and we’re sacking staff,” says a tutor at Macquarie. 

The briefing paper states a further $38.3 million may be needed in savings, which could lead to changes in 2022. 

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