UNIVERSITY of Newcastle Vice Chancellor Alex Zelinsky is absolutely correct when he says that the financial and social impacts of COVID-19 mean the institution has to make some big changes for the years ahead.
Put simply, it has to cut its cloth to suit the prevailing winds, which are already hostile, and unlikely to swing in a favourable direction any time soon.
Globally, new coronavirus numbers topped 200,000 a day for the first two days of July, meaning it could take just five days to add another one million cases to yesterday's total of almost 10.9 million infections.
Absent a vaccine, COVID-19 travel restrictions will put a massive hole in the numbers of international students studying at all Australian institutions, including Newcastle, where 7400 of almost 38,000 students are from overseas.
Last year's accounts show international students put $130 million into the university coffers, with only $9 million of that from students studying "offshore", presumably in their home countries.
By comparison, the university received $499 million in government payments, but overseas students still provided more than 15 per cent of last year's income of $845 million.
Although Professor Zelinsky wrote to staff this week about the changes, he declined to speak with the media about the situation, and as of yesterday there was nothing on the university website to inform the public of the institution's COVID-driven changes.
Staff were told the McMullin's demolition will go ahead, but the STEMM building will presumably miss its scheduled early-2023 completion date.
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The university has described this $200-million project as its "largest ever capital works" - a sign of "how crucial STEMM will be" to the institution's future.
The STEMM "pause" is not the only cost-saving measure on Professor Zelinsky's agenda, and with talks under way with unions about job cuts, the administration needs to be up front with everyone: including the public, as well as its employees.
COVID could mean almost total reliance on the university's regional, domestic market for prosperity and academic success.
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