National

Victorian uni seeks further bank help

By AAP Newswire

La Trobe University is talking with several banks about accessing more money so it can continue running in the short term.

The Victorian university has also asked its staff to take a pay cut to protect jobs, as the coronavirus pandemic leaves it facing "significant revenue losses" for 2020 and the next two years.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the entire higher education sector facing financial shortfall and uncertainty, and La Trobe is no exception," the institution said in a statement on Wednesday.

The university says it is in "productive and ongoing discussions" with its three banks on increasing its access to money, which it believes will meet its funding needs in the short term.

It's also taking steps to find cost savings and balance its books in the longer term, including a voluntary redundancy program expected to save $20 million in 2020 and $40 million each year in 2021 and 2022.

Under a job protection framework drafted with the tertiary education union, La Trobe is also asking staff to agree to a 10 per cent pay cut, with the first $30,000 of their salary excluded.

Promotions would continue under the plan, but staff wouldn't be paid additional cash for their new roles until 2022.

Recreation leave would also be reduced, with long service leave unaffected.

Staff are due to vote on the proposal on June 15-16.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he was "concerned" about La Trobe's struggles.

The state government is speaking with the institution about what further help it may be able to provide.

"It's too important an institution to have coronavirus undermine what is a very important future," Mr Andrews told reporters.

La Trobe University's woes come as Swinburne University of Technology told staff it had decided to start consultations for voluntary redundancies.

"We are still facing a deficit of $51 million in 2020. We are projecting further deficits totalling $101 million in 2021 and 2022," an email from Vice Chancellor Professor Linda Kristjanson on Wednesday said.

The consultation period for Swinburne employees is now open and will close at 5pm on June 12.

Deakin University last week announced about 300 jobs at the institution were at risk as a result of the coronavirus.

The government has already given universities $350 million in the pandemic for capital works, applied research and research partnerships, and about $110 million worth of payroll tax deferrals.

Mr Andrews did not wish to comment on whether he thought support for universities at a federal level had fallen short.

"A partnership is always the best way to go," he said.

Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien said the federal government is better placed to help bail out universities if needed, but stressed Victoria can continue working on reopening its international student market.

He warned universities, however, that they have been too reliant on overseas students to date.

"This is a very important wake up call for Victoria universities ... they do need to diversify," he said.