Victoria University calls for voluntary redundancies

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Victoria University is calling for voluntary redundancies of around 16 per cent of its workforce – about 300 full-time academic and administrative staff –after posting a $73.2 million deficit last year.

On Wednesday, staff were told by Vice chancellor Adam Shoemaker that the institution had a 2023 cost savings target of $40million, but that expenditure continued to exceed revenue. ‘Voluntary separation program’ invitations were sent to staff at 2pm.

Exactly what steps will be taken next if the 300 redundancies were not taken voluntarily has not been made clear.

Shoemaker described it as “a challenging time for everyone”.

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“In saying this, my confidence in VU is very strong. We have outstanding people who care about our students, our values and our purpose. It is a place of undoubted excellence,” he said.

“Together with the executive and with the support of our University Council, we are taking essential actions today which will shape our future: as a proudly different, inclusive and outstanding university.”

The university’s launch of a ‘Towards One VU Program’ plan, focused on research, teaching and “service in excellence”, was part of the announcement and includes bringing industry alliances onto the Victoria University campus.

Concerns staff workloads will become heavier

Vice president of the National Tertiary Education Union’s Victoria University branch, Dr Matthew Klugman, said staff were “shell-shocked”.

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His concern was that the 300 job losses would lead to remaining staff having a heavier workload.

The university had failed in its legal obligations to consult staff or the union before implementing measures that affected workplace health and safety, including workloads, the union said.

By refusing to work with staff, and announcing what he described as a “massive set of redundancies” without consultation, Dr Klugman said the university’s actions were “simply unfathomable”.

“It is time for the university to create an ethical, sustainable workload for all its staff,” he said.

Staff at the troubled university, who have already endured multiple rounds of redundancies in recent years, now face more devastating consequences as the impact of the further workforce slashes takes its toll.

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The latest blow for staff at Victoria University follows merger

In 2022, the university announced a merger of six of its higher education colleges into two new super-schools. There were 21 job losses.

At the time, Mr Shoemaker said the changes, which included the loss of two senior roles – the dean of sport and exercise science and the dean of engineering and science – were not about cost-cutting.

A larger round of job cuts was made previously, in 2020, when Victoria University cited the pandemic as the reason for its need to reduce staff numbers by almost 12 per cent.

Victoria University’s recent annual report revealed a deficit of $73.2 million in 2022, following a $1.3 million surplus in 2021.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]