Update: VC's commitment to a world class student experience

18 September 2020

Dear students, 

On Wednesday, I provided an update on the University's financial position, and the ramifications it will have for the University going forward. 

To every one of our students who has reached out to staff and has expressed concern about the University, I say thank you. ANU is always one community, and when we experience change on the scale COVID-19 has caused, we all need to look out for each other.    

The challenges created by the pandemic are not yet over and it is now clear that we will face ongoing financial constraints in 2021 and beyond. This will mean it is necessary to save $103 million from our budget, resulting in a further reduction of 215 positions in our staffing profile. This is the biggest challenge we have faced in our 74-year history.  

I understand that this announcement will have raised questions for many of you about whether and how ANU will change, and what things we might need to do differently in the future.  I want to emphasize that we are in a consultation phase, so we are talking to our community to hear their ideas, and that will shape our next steps. But I know you, our students, will want to contribute to, and to help you do that, our Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Grady Venville and Chief Operating Officer Paul Duldig will be hosting a forum for students on Thursday 24 September. Please attend if you want to ask questions and provide feedback. And if you need more information about the ANU Recovery Plan consultation, everything has been published on our website

Beyond the consultation, every decision that we make as a university is, and will be, underpinned by our guiding principles and unique mission to serve the people of Australia. One of the most important ways we can do this is by providing excellent education and a great student experience. We will continue to invest in support services to ensure that every student has the best experience possible while studying at ANU, and our intent is to do more, not less.  

But I am also very proud of our staff who have worked incredibly hard during this global crisis to continue teaching and minimise, as best as they can, the disruption to you, our students' education. And I am very proud of you, our students, and the way you have worked collaboratively with the University's staff to help make this year better than it might have been.  

Part of that great experience is the opportunity to learn directly from the world's best scholars. For instance, Professor Edward Aspinall, a world-leading expert in Indonesian politics, both lectures and runs tutorials for students. Access to great researchers is key to your high-quality ANU education and your employability as a graduate, and we will not change that.   

This year has been tough and there is no doubt that many students have been impacted. We have done our best to look after our community with funds and grants for wellbeing support and financial hardship. And we will continue to invest in support services and counselling.  

So, this has been a very tough week for our community, and although I have spoken to a lot of ANU staff, I wanted to reach out to our students too, and tell you that our University will continue to be the great place you all wanted to study at. We need to spend less, but we need to do that while we meet our commitment to offer a student experience equal to the world's best. Over the coming weeks and months, I ask that you show empathy, compassion and support to one another, and to our staff. The next few months will be tough, but the role each of us plays will decide how tough. You, our students, are a major reason we're working as hard as we can to keep ANU great.   

Brian