Continuing to manage COVID-19

17 April 2020

Dear colleagues 

It's been a number of weeks since we all moved to remote work and study and I hope you are all adjusting to these very different and difficult circumstances. I remain impressed by our community's generosity of spirit, resilience and patience in these challenging times. 

This pandemic represents perhaps the greatest challenge in the history of our University. It's also the most significant challenge Australia's university sector has faced. But I thank everyone of you for all that you are doing to keep our University great - not just in the face of this challenge, but for the long-term.

There's no doubt the COVID-19 crisis has caused massive economic disruption. ANU is starting from a good financial position, but it's no secret we have been hit financially by the crisis as well. No-one knows the full extent of the financial impact on the sector or on our University, but no doubt you have seen media reports quoting various analyses by pundits. 

The COVID-19 pandemic will have an impact on ANU measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  While we are financially in better shape than most universities, we too need to carefully manage and prioritise how we use our money now to ensure our ongoing success.

Recently the ANU Council made some important decisions to make sure we have sufficient financial reserves to operate through Semester One and meet the obligations and commitments we have made during this crisis so far.

This involves:

  • pausing some of our capital works;
  • locking in the savings from travel budgets; and
  • pausing most recruitment until we're in a position to on-board people properly.

In terms of our capital works, this means an initial six-month pause on the new student accommodation project which is currently at early works stage. It also includes delaying some projects which have not yet started construction. We will look to get these works underway as soon as it is financially prudent to do so. Projects that are nearing completion will go ahead as planned, subject to government COVID-19 measures and the ongoing financial health of the University.

The decision to pause some of our capital works has been difficult to make. We take our role in the Canberra community and its economy very seriously. We have taken the lightest touch possible to this whilst also ensuring our financial position is adequate for the present moment - we are balancing short-term needs with longevity and future financial security. The pause is to ensure our operations continue with as little of disruption as possible. These short term measures are the best way that we can respond to the current circumstances.

We are now turning our attention to Semester Two, and considering a broad range of scenarios, and how we might mitigate most of the impacts that might affect our staff and students. My central goal is to do everything we can to minimise the impacts on both students and staff while ensuring a bright future for the University.  We have, at ANU, been very careful at controlling expenditure over the past 5 years, and my hope is, with a little luck, we can avoid some of the brutal disruptions we have seen across the world.  As always, we will consult and be transparent with you as things become clearer.

In the meantime, I want to thank you all again for your patience and goodwill as we navigate these very complex challenges.

While some of our activities are momentarily paused, our core activities continue thanks to our collective efforts. We continue to do our best for our students and their futures. We continue to use our knowledge, research, and talents to  shape decision-making and contribute to our nation's COVID-19 response, and we continue to progress knowledge as Australia's national university in the service to the greater good of humanity. 

Your commitment to ANU and our community makes this possible. Enjoy your weekend.