It’s been revealed, the University of Newcastle produced a surplus of $185 million in the same year it announced plans to make hundreds of staff members redundant.
The numbers came out in its 2021 Annual Report, tabled in parliament on Monday and audited by the NSW Auditor-General.
The University’s reporting the “key driver of the surplus were strong investment returns which were mostly unrealised at the end of the year”.
That’s compared to a surplus of just $7.5 million the year prior.
The National Tertiary Education Union is slamming the revelation, saying claims about financial hardship during the pandemic are now clearly unfounded.
Newcastle Branch President Dan Conway says it’s proof the University was never in real trouble.
“In our view, they’re clearly not justified in light of the surplus that’s now been announced,” Mr Conway said.
“We said all along about the sort of concerns about COVID and the risk that that posed to the university and sector more broadly, however, we also cautioned against knee-jerk reactions without understanding the situation fully, and I think we’ve been vindicated through that process.”
The University of Newcastle saw a major restructure last year, purportedly in an attempt to balance the books.
150 full-time equivalent academic positions were cut in the restructure, though 92 new roles were set to be created.
Some members of staff also attended a Senate Committee hearing last December to discuss casualisation issues at the University, after only five of more than 2,000 casual staff received an offer of ongoing employment.
Mr Conway says the University is legally obliged to be not-for-profit, and should return the funds into its core activities of teaching and research.
“We’d say that that stockpiling needs to be made available for staff,” Mr Conway said.
“We’re currently in the middle of enterprise bargaining, and it’s going to be very hard to justify, from my point of view, cutting away entitlements and not giving staff pay rises that they deserve in light of this surplus.”
“Ultimately, the vast majority of the surplus is available for the University to use, and management makes a decision not to funnel that where we think they should go, which is staff and students directly.
“And we see last week, the University coming out and making a statement about attempting to replicate Oxford in Newcastle, and that’s code, in my view, for building more buildings.”
The University of Newcastle has been contacted for comment.