University on financial rebound after $5 million loss in 2020


The city’s second biggest employer may break even or turn a profit at the end of 2021, its vice-chancellor says.

ROSA WOODS/Stuff

The city’s second biggest employer may break even or turn a profit at the end of 2021, its vice-chancellor says.

Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University could break even or land “well in the black” in 2021, its vice-chancellor Grant Guilford says.

He said the university is bouncing back, following a gruelling 2020 of financial loss and hundreds of job cuts.

But Guilford foreshadowed to Stuff there could be a reduction in some courses in 2022, due the large-scale redundancies brought on by the pandemic.

The capital’s second biggest employer experienced a $5 million loss at the close of 2020, instead of the $19 million loss it originally predicted, Guilford said.

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Victoria University of Wellington vice-chancellor Grant Guilford expects the university to break even in 2021.

SUPPLIED

Victoria University of Wellington vice-chancellor Grant Guilford expects the university to break even in 2021.

“This happened on the back of a lot of hardship with people voluntarily losing their jobs, pay restraint and no promotions – and people working a lot harder.”

Two hundred people lost their jobs through voluntary redundancies and early retirement programmes.

Closed borders and the resulting lack of international students caused a “significant financial impact”.

Pre-Covid, in 2019, international students brought in $46m to the university, this reduced to $43m in 2020 and was projected to reduce to between $20m and $23m for 2021.

In a normal year, the university would have about 3300​ international students, 2700 who are full-time students. That had been reduced to a projected 1000 or 1200 students in 2022, Guilford said.

“For each year of closed borders, we are losing close to 800 of those 3000 students.”

Despite this, the university’s finances were looking brighter at the end of 2021, he said.

Domestic enrolments had increased by 9 per cent – amounting to 1000 more New Zealand students.

Closed borders and the resulting lack of international students caused a “significant financial impact” on the university during 2020, Grant Guilford said.

Monique Ford/Stuff

Closed borders and the resulting lack of international students caused a “significant financial impact” on the university during 2020, Grant Guilford said.

The university was also gaining more through transnational education. It had set up a study centre in Beijing and partner universities were delivering Victoria courses in other areas of China, India and Vietnam.

“We will have a good year financially this year.

“We were aiming to break even, and I think we will be well and truly back in the black this year.”

Guilford said he thought the university was “finished” with the large-scale job losses staff had to take in 2020.

But the redundancies still had an effect, and it was likely there would be a “small reduction” in the number of courses offered.

“This year, we’ve retained most of the courses because people have just worked a lot harder, and they are teaching a lot more courses, but that’s not sustainable.”

NEW ZEALAND PARLIAMENT

Victoria University vice-chancellor Grant Guilford talks about cost-cutting measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. (First published September 18, 2020)

Guilford did not say which courses would be affected, which was a process decided by deans of the department.

He did not know how many courses would be cut, expecting courses with small student numbers to merge into some subject areas – rather than stop completely.

“The staff are very determined not to drop subject areas as a whole, but more change the way they teach those subject areas, so rather than one topic disappearing, it becomes part of a broader course that includes that topic alongside other topics.

“That’s the approach they are looking to take.”

New courses were also being added each year.

Once large-scale vaccination had occurred, the university hoped the Government would introduce flexibility around managed isolation for international students, with testing and health safeguards in place.



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