After 700+ job cuts, UNSW reports $305 million profit in 2021

By Nadia Maunsell

In the last financial year, UNSW cut 1 in 10 full-time jobs. Now the University has $305 million in profit.  

UNSW just released its 2021 Annual Report, where it reported total revenue of $2.52 billion. In the same year, total expenses were recorded as $2.21 billion.  

This left the University with $305 million in profit, although after accounting for restricted earnings such as philanthropic funds and investment funds, the university’s underlying profit was $61 million.  

This marks a significant rise from the University’s $64 million loss in 2020. According to the annual report, UNSW’s result was “essentially break even”.  

It comes after UNSW recorded the highest number of staff cuts of any university in the country, with 726 fewer full-time jobs in 2021 than the previous year.  

The University has also been accused of underpaying casual staff up to $36 million by an independent auditor. 

UNSW’s profit margin was much lower than that of USYD, recorded as $1.04 billion in 2021 by the Campus Morning Mail. Although, USYD Vice-Chancellor Mark Scott told the Sydney Morning Herald that the figure was boosted by one-off investment returns and property sales, meaning USYD retained an underlying profit of $453 million. 

In an effort to secure better working conditions, USYD staff went on strike for 48 hours on the 11th and 12th of May and then again on the 24th to protest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff rights. 

UNSW staff are also currently negotiating new enterprise bargaining agreements. The new agreements will determine salaries and employment conditions for the next four years. It is unclear whether UNSW staff will take similar action to USYD staff. 

SRC General Secretary Nick Palmer told Tharunka that he thinks UNSW’s financial position can only benefit staff in negotiations. 

“It’s self-evident that posting a surplus like $305 million puts staff in a good position to bargain for a substantive improvement in their working conditions. The university simply cannot in good faith argue that there is no scope for this, when they have this much to give,” he said.  

When asked if UNSW should consider rehiring the staff who were terminated, SRC President Nayonika Bhattacharya said: 

“There is scope for making current temporary staff permanent and in ensuring we consider bringing back academics and reoffering subjects that were entirely cut by schools during the massive cuts”. 

Other universities such as Macquarie University, University of Newcastle, University of Wollongong and Western Sydney University also reported profits in the millions.  

In response to University of Newcastle’s $185 million profit, NTEU Newcastle Branch President Dan Conway told 2NURFM

“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”. 

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