Melbourne-Based University RMIT Cuts 355 Staff to Survive Virus Hit

August 21, 2020 Updated: August 21, 2020

RMIT University has slashed staff numbers to ensure its long-term survival through the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Melbourne-based university on Aug 21 announced 355 staff had taken voluntary redundancies, amounting to savings of $48 million.

It is the latest institution to announce drastic cuts as the Australian university sector struggles with the absence of international students caused by flight restrictions.

In a statement, the university said it had taken early proactive steps to protect itself, including asking staff for voluntary contributions.

“RMIT has taken a careful and considered approach to addressing the financial challenges associated with COVID-19 and we are continuing to seek ways to reduce our costs and align our operations to the environment we face,” a spokesperson said.

The university has faced a $175 million fall in revenue for 2020 due to travel restrictions that have halted its international student intake.

Executives have taken salary reductions and will not be eligible for pay reviews or any additional salaried benefits in 2020.

Other voluntary staff contributions include reduced work and purchasing additional leave on an opt-in basis.

The National Tertiary Education Union said the job losses were devastating on top of hundreds of casual jobs that had already gone.

President Alison Barnes blamed the federal government for failing to financially rescue the sector.

“It is beyond reckless to allow universities to be smashed by this crisis, given the critical role they will play in the post-COVID recovery,” she said.

RMIT’s redundancies come as Sydney University approaches staff about cuts and the University of Melbourne slashed 450 jobs earlier this month.

Andi Yu in Melbourne