ANU prepares to slash up to 150 jobs

Students walk through the grounds at the Australian National University. AAP/Alan Porritt

The Australian National University is preparing to cut up to 150 staff as it looks for ways to save $40 million, and protect the university from declining investment returns and increasing capital investment costs.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Young, said the university had no choice but to “take bold action”.

“ANU is not alone in having global and national financial circumstances cut into our bottom line,” Professor Young said. “Investment returns have declined in recent years. Investment income in 2012 will be approximately $30 million less than in previous years.”

ANU “will today begin a broad, consultative process aimed at reducing activities to save $40 million in order to protect the health of this great University”.

Higher salary and depreciation costs had also cut into the university’s budget, he said.

To offset the fallout, the university had no choice but to cut $25 million in staff expenses, equivalent to between 100 and 150 jobs. An additional $15 million would be saved through improvements to the university’s business practices.

“If we do not act to reduce spending, the university will be unable to invest in excellence, and will suffer a gradual decline in international standing and quality. That is not a future that any member of the ANU community wants.”

The announcement comes as the University of Sydney also prepares to cut hundreds of jobs, in a move that critics say is cynically designed to fund a range of lavish infrastructure projects, such as a world-class obesity research centre.

The decision by ANU to sell off its “key asset, its people, is the absolute last step an organisation should take when it needs to solve financial problems,” said a National Tertiary Education Union spokesman, Stephen Darwin. “It is not a step to take lightly and other strategies should always be considered first.

"The situation facing ANU is in part the same facing most Australian universities: persistent underfunding by the federal government. The recent base funding review of universities found that Commonwealth supported places are underfunded by at least 10% and this announcement at a university like the ANU is a testament to this continued underfunding.”