ANU 2020 financial update

Read the VC's message to the community on Friday 23 April here

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The University's final results for the 2020 year have been audited by the Australian National Audit Office and approved by the ANU Council and are now able to be shared with the community.  

Our operating deficit was $162.4m. The reported deficit figure was $17.7m. However this includes $91m in insurance proceeds and $61.4m in investment revenue. Neither of those income sources can be used for operational purposes, which is why the operating deficit is larger than the reported deficit.  

Quick links

Graph 1 – Reconciliation of management and financial reporting

Changes to 2020 forecasts

The University’s final 2020 operating deficit is $56.6m lower than expected. This is due to better-than-expected tuition income ($22.7m) and an increase of $27m in research revenue from government grants and consultancy fees.  

Student retention

The University’s student retention rate across both international and domestic students was better than forecast, accounting for an additional $22.7m in tuition income than what was predicted in early 2020 when the pandemic first shut our campus.  

Graph 2 – ANU student load 2020 and 2019 actuals

Staffing reductions 

In 2020, the University’s staffing profile decreased by 436 FTE. However, the University’s salary expenses increased with $66m in separation payments to staff who have left the University through our recovery plans. This one-off additional expense is offset by years of salary savings. 


Frequently asked questions 

If the University’s deficit is better than we thought, why are we proceeding with the restructure and job losses?

While the University’s operating deficit is not as big as first thought, it’s still a substantial deficit and we expect deficits for several years. The University’s operating deficit for 2020 was $162.4m.  

The sacrifices made by our community in 2020 helped reduce the operating deficit, and in the medium to long term, those sacrifices are also helping to future proof the University against future financial shocks.  

The ANU Recovery plan is not only focussed on our financial position. It is designed to ensure we are in a position to fulfil our remit as the national university in future.  

We understand our community has been through the toughest period in our history, but we are not through all the challenges presented by the pandemic. We don’t know when international borders will reopen and must prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.  

Staff deferred their pay rise in 2020. When will we get it?

We were able to save up to 90 jobs in 2020 because ANU staff generously deferred a pay rise by 12 months. The two percent increase will be paid as agreed in July this year with a further two percent increase in July 2022. Work is also underway on a new enterprise agreement, which will cover future pay increases. 

How come ANU is reporting a substantial deficit while other universities are reporting large surpluses? 

We can’t speak to other universities’ financial results specifically, but ANU has recorded a $17.7m reported deficit and an operating deficit of $162.4m.  We had predicted a $219m operating deficit, but teaching and research revenue were both higher than expected thanks to the hard work of our people.  

Our operating deficit is due to a number of unforeseen expenses and revenue losses incurred in 2020, including: 

  • Closure of Australia’s borders preventing international students from joining us on campus  
  • Expenses incurred with the shift to remote working and teaching 
  • Support to our students to cope with the pandemic with travel bursaries and student accommodation 
  • Separation payments to staff who have left the University through its Recovery plan  
  • Investment in staff and research facilities to help the national recovery from the pandemic 

ANU has a unique role in Australian society and we must be focussed on fulfilling our remit from now and into the future. The decisions we take now will ensure we continue to educate our future leaders, find evidence-based solutions to the greatest challenges of our time and contribute to the development of public policy as Australia emerges from the pandemic.