34 academics at Macquarie University will be made redundant after a voluntary redundancy program failed to “fully mitigate the financial impact of COVID.”
The prospect of forced job losses was foreshadowed at the end of last year, with a briefing paper calling for $25 million of savings through academic redundancies.
These latest job losses come on top of almost 300 voluntary redundancies accepted in 2020.
More forced redundancies can be expected, with Macquarie Vice Chancellor Bruce Dowton predicting up to 82 academic staff would be cut throughout 2021.
A Macquarie University spokesperson told Honi that “teaching needs have been a key consideration” in targeting areas for redundancies. As a result, departments with declining student numbers have suffered job losses.
The Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences was hit particularly hard by the latest round of redundancies, with academic staff reduced from 20 to 3. Some academics will continue to work on fixed term research projects. The department will cease to exist and will be amalgamated with the Departments of Biological and Molecular Sciences to form a new school.
These drastic academic reductions come despite the department “performing well in research” according to the spokesperson. The Macquarie Earth Sciences Department has been described as “world class,” with academics in the field fearing that significant lab equipment not found elsewhere in Australia will be lost alongside the department.
In recent years, Macquaire, ANU, UNSW, USYD and Melbourne University have all cut earth sciences capabilities to differing levels. Academics fear a “wholesale loss of [earth sciences] capabilities in Australia,” something which is at odds with the federal government’s insistence that universities focus more on STEM subjects.
Earth sciences are particularly important in assisting in action against climate change, tracking environmental changes, addressing food, water and energy security, and forecasting increasingly frequent natural disasters.