Academic staff have been left reeling in uncertainty, according to the tertiary education union, in the aftermath of decisions that will see sweeping changes to courses at Charles Sturt University.
National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) representative for Wagga's campus, Dr Helen Masterman-Smith, said there is a prevailing feeling that the latest course cuts will result in widespread job losses.
"These cuts will obviously trigger redundancies, but we won't know what that will look like for some time. We're currently seeking clarity on that," Dr Masterman-Smith said.
The university has previously flagged the need to roll out redundancies, with the first phase now affecting administrative staff. The second phase of job cuts is expected to target academic staff.
At the Wagga campus, the courses most likely to be affected will be those in the psychology, business and theatre industries.
Across all campuses, 20 of courses with no enrollments will be culled.
A further 28 courses with low enrollments will also be phased out, while 61 offerings will shift campus locations or mode of delivery.
"We're looking at heavy losses in key operations and if that happens, there will be more work on academic staff and that's detrimental to health," Dr Masterman-Smith said.
"Some of the courses that are being cut are just housekeeping, they already have no enrollments so they won't likely lead to job losses.
"But then, that won't generate the kinds of budget balancing cuts the university has already said will take place. We just need clarity and transparency on it."
The situation at the university has also promoted political fallout. Labor Senator Deborah O'Neill described it as a "death by a thousand cuts", and called on the federal government to intervene.
"Charles Sturt University is a vital and vibrant part of Wagga and the Riverina. It's a huge drawcard, bringing talented students to the region," Ms O'Neill said.
"We know that if you train people were they live, they are more likely to stay."
Federal member for Riverina, Michael McCormack responded by noting the $1million job-ready graduates package, and $48.8 million regional university research grants program.
"Charles Sturt University is an autonomous institution which is responsible for its own management," Mr McCormack said.
"I have been ensured all avenues were explored before making these decisions.
"Institutions and businesses alike have to adapt to changes in their respective industries to survive and thrive into the future - Charles Sturt is no different in this regard.
"I am assured these measures have been made so it can continue to meet the needs of the regional communities and the students it serves."
Mr McCormack expressed confidence the university would be able to retain its regionally based students under even after the finalisation of course cuts.
"I would not expect any institution or business to offer services or goods which are not financially viable and, in this case, taxpayers' money should not be wasted to support a course which is not adequately patronaged."
"The psychology degrees, and others besides, will still be offered online, which will mean students looking to study these degrees can still stay in Wagga and look to seek employment here when they complete their degree."
State member for Wagga Dr Joe McGirr said he will continue to discuss with the university what options are available.
"I understand the need for the university to be financially viable and the current challenges it faces with the pandemic," he said.
"However, it is critical that reductions and changes do not undermine the core strengths of the university, particularly its links to the regional community of Wagga."