Charles Sturt University staff face an anxious wait after being told job cuts will be imminent under a plan to ensure the university's financial viability.
National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) representative for Wagga's campus, Dr Helen Masterman-Smith said there had been "zero transparency" as staff "read between the lines of financial statements" to speculate on where the job losses may be felt.
"There have been mixed messages and a lot of confusion [but] we've been told that every department will be reviewed," Dr Masterman-Smith said.
It comes after the university unveiled its 'sustainable futures program' last week, which will address an $80 million decline in revenue since the COVID-19 crisis.
"We're still awaiting the business case to explain the $80 million deficit, we haven't seen how many jobs will be lost or where they will be lost, it's all just general information and no details," Dr Masterman-Smith said.
It is understood, the Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Vann will be hosting virtual meetings next week to address staff concerns.
"The sustainable futures program is reviewing every aspect of our operating model. This includes travel, system and infrastructure costs, courses and campuses, and, unfortunately, staff positions," Professor Vann said.
"We expect to release plans for consultation on the first round of changes by the end of June 2020. We are working through this plan now. It is not yet finalised. We will provide more information to staff by the end of June."
A downturn in international programs and students has been largely blamed for the significant university deficit.
Dr Masterman-Smith cited Charles Sturt University's national partnership with Study Group Australia, which works to transition international students for undergraduate and post-graduate course in Australia.
But, in regional NSW and particularly in Wagga, she said the reliance on overseas dollars was not as profound.
"Our research is indicating that domestic and regional student numbers are holding up, and if not are actually higher than they have been over the years, so it does raise some questions that this would be the reason," she said.
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Dr Masterman-Smith further said the COVID-19 situation has proven the inefficiency of universities having to rely on international students to meet domestic needs.
"The federal funding cuts over the years have made universities compete for overseas money in a cut-throat market, so no we've got this massive hole with no way to plug it," she said.
"A lot of staff are now very fearful and angry at the government and at management."
Among those who have been left in the lurch is Dr Dominique Sweeney in CSU's arts and education faculty. He said his colleagues feel "shaky but united" after the news.
"These COVID cuts are hanging over us, they're imminent, they're coming but we don't know what they will be yet," he said.
He blames the federal government's ongoing freezes to the funding of universities over recent years that has forced this current predicament.
"It's appalling, are [universities] places for people to make money or to shape a thinking and caring future?," Dr Sweeney said.
"The focus on profit is counter-productive. Academic initiatives are undermined by profit-driven thinking but that's not to say [universities] shouldn't turn a profit and be managed properly."