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150 FTE academic positions to be cut at University of Newcastle

The cuts are a part of a restructuring that has already seen the merging of five faculties into three colleges last November.

The University of Newcastle will cut 150 full-time equivalent (FTE) academic positions in a new round of cuts. The cuts will be made across three colleges of learning: Engineering, Science and Environment; Health, Medicine and Wellbeing; and Human and Social Futures.

The cuts are a part of a restructuring that has already seen the merging of five faculties into three colleges last November. Other cost-cutting measures undertaken by UON include an early retirement scheme and a course optimisation program that saw 530 subjects consolidated or discontinued.

Following the cuts, the university plans to introduce 92.8 FTE positions within the schools, with the net loss of positions rounding out to 59.5 FTE positions. It is unclear how many individuals currently make up the 150 FTE positions that will be cut. Historically, casualised and precarious staff will be most impacted by these cuts, as casualised academics make up around 70% of all academics at some universities.

With pre-existing austerity measures, Vice Chancellor Alex Zelinsky has said that the cuts will bring UON to their savings target of $35 million. This newest round of cuts alone is predicted to save the university around $20 million.

Across the three colleges of learning, the cuts to academic staff are:

  • Engineering, Science and Environment: 61 FTE lost and 47.6 FTE created
  • Health, Medicine and Wellbeing: 49.5 FTE lost and and 29.3 FTE created
  • Human and Social Futures: 39.8 FTE lost and 15.9 created

The college of Human and Social Futures will be hit the hardest by the latest round of cuts; for every two FTE positions lost, the university will create only 0.8 FTE positions.

In universities across Australia, students and staff have said that cuts to staff and the increased casualisation of academics will mean increased workloads for staff, particularly academics.

While Vice Chancellor Zelinsky has said that half of the affected academic positions are or will be vacant by the end of the year due to the end of fixed term contracts and the university’s early retirement scheme, there remains uncertainty for staff within those schools.

UON is one of several Australian universities whose enterprise agreements expire this year, with UON’s enterprise agreement for academic staff and teachers expiring on 30 September 2021. At USyd, whose enterprise bargaining agreement also expires this year, strikes by staff and students are expected.