Dear Colleagues

I trust that you all had a pleasant, albeit different, Easter break. I hope you have found time to connect with friends and family and take some time for yourself.

To be in the position that we are in today, to be offering over 1000 undergraduate and postgraduate subjects remotely, is an exceptional effort and achievement for our institution.

I have recorded a short video about the transition for you and our students.

I know you have worked tirelessly to ensure we can deliver a quality remote learning experience, and acknowledge this effort has been made at a time when you are experiencing dramatic changes and demands in your personal lives.

You will have no doubt seen media commentary about the financial impact facing the university sector. Analysis by Universities Australia suggests that nationally around 21,000 jobs are at risk across the university sector. UOW is not immune from the financial impact that this pandemic has had on the sector, and we are now facing challenging times ahead.

Throughout this pandemic crisis, UOW has made the health, safety and wellbeing of all students, staff and communities our paramount concern. With this in mind, the University took the step to delay census date for students to lock in their enrolment until 16 April. This decision was made in the best interests of students to ensure they could experience remote learning before incurring financial burden.

The resulting change in census date means that the University’s financial position will be evident in the coming weeks once final session enrolments are known. We anticipate there will be significant financial impacts arising from the downturn in international numbers and investment returns. Like our counterparts at other universities, we will indeed face challenging times ahead.

Over Easter, the Commonwealth government made some welcome announcements securing the commonwealth grant to the end of 2020. The NSW government is still reviewing various initiatives. We are looking in detail at the scale of the impact on our current and future operations seeking the best way to return to a sustainable position as quickly as is possible. That depends, in part, on the length and depth of the recession and the speed at which a vaccine is deployed to allow international students to travel.

I want to personally assure you that decisions about containing costs and reducing expenditure will be made cautiously. My intention is to save as many jobs as possible, with the intent of ensuring UOW continues to deliver a comprehensive education and research environment.

The most important thing we can collectively do at this time is to keep focused on student retention, satisfaction and student recruitment for 2021.

I want to thank the staff in central divisions and faculties who have so swiftly pivoted traditional student recruitment and marketing strategies to online delivery. I am very encouraged by the positive feedback we are receiving from the market about our response to their needs. Early Admissions will be more important than ever to our 2021 intake, but the 20+ years we have in executing this recruitment strategy should serve us very well.

Higher education is one of the sectors with the most significant financial exposure to the effects of COVID-19. Still, I am also confident that our sector will have an essential role in rebuilding our communities and the nation as we move through this.

I know that we will find solace in our UOW community and rebuild from this. Please stay safe, healthy and continue to support each other during this time.

Professor Paul Wellings CBE