Message from the Vice-Chancellor

24 June 2020

To the ANU Community,

It has been heartening to hear from so many of you during these past few months. I am grateful for your interest in how the University is faring in relation to COVID-19. Many of you have asked about the University's financial situation, so I wanted to provide you with an update.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on everyone. Our University, along with the rest of the sector, will have to face working with substantially fewer resources than we are used to. I would like to provide as much clarity and transparency around our situation as I meaningfully can.

At the beginning of the year, the University was in a strong financial position. In January, we were forced to close the campus as smoke inundated the city, and later that month a supercell hailstorm caused extensive damage to the University. These two events meant immediate unforeseen costs of $6.7 million and damage to buildings measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The global pandemic saw travel restrictions affect thousands of international and domestic ANU students. The University funded a number of measures to support affected students and implemented flexible approaches to remote learning. These unforeseen circumstances have cost $68 million.

This means the University will earn less income than anticipated. We expect a reduction to our budget of $125 million in tuition fees and $25 million in other revenue such as commercial activities on campus.

As of 9 June, we face a $225 million shortfall in 2020 relative to our budget. To address this, we have made some immediate savings and have measures planned to meet obligations and face future challenges.

What does this mean for our ANU community?

We truly value the support and trust of our alumni, donors and friends. We are committed to honouring this trust by ensuring philanthropic funds are being used appropriately and in the intended manner. We are committed to growing our philanthropic Endowment and fulfilling our obligations to donors, utilising it only for the purposes of those individual gifts of which it is made up.

We are already looking at philanthropic funding and research funding outside of ARC and NHMRC. This work will take greater priority over the coming weeks and months. Our mission to advance Australia through excellent research and public policy is unwavering.

Our strategy to become a smaller, more sustainable organisation has prepared us better than most other universities in Australia.

With the implementation of remote learning, we have seen higher than expected retention from our international students. We are looking at new joint or dual degree programs that could be delivered overseas. This will ensure we can continue to recruit the best students from around the world - even if they can't physically attend campus.

Here in Australia, encouragingly, demand for domestic undergraduate enrolments has remained strong. This will support our plans for a truly representative student body, and ensure access to students from across our nation. Providing certainty for our future students is important - not just for their education, but for us to understand the demands on our teaching.

Our students come to ANU to learn, not just from the world's best teachers, but from their peers who come from around the world. While the education quality of remote learning has been exemplary, we hope to see our students back on campus as soon as possible.

The whole ANU community has shown its strength and resolve through adversity, as we always do. We're all in this together. I thank you for your generosity and continued support of our community. 

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