La Trobe University Change Proposal

La Trobe University has today started an organisation-wide consultation to shape the University for the future. The change proposal has been developed to ensure La Trobe is in a strong position for future growth.

It will secure our financial position in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to have major implications for the finances and operations of all universities across Australia.

The proposal strongly reinforces our commitment to our regional campuses as well as to our students and partners in Melbourne and overseas.

If implemented, the Proposal will strengthen the University’s ability to collaborate and engage with industry and will expand work integrated learning opportunities for our students, demonstrating our focus in this important area.

The Jobs Protection Framework, voted on by staff and implemented in July 2020, and which terminated at the end of June 2021, provided time for the University to plan strategically for our future. The change proposal is the outcome of that planning and is informed by extensive reviews of supporting strategies, staff surveys, School business plans, and operating and service delivery models.

The change proposal includes significant changes to the way we are structured. This will result in both new opportunities and redundancies. The current modelling estimates a loss of around 200 FTE positions (full time - financial equivalent) - less than previously forecast and communicated with staff.

Around 300 proposed new roles addressing workforce need, aligned with the University’s strategic goals, will offer opportunities for some staff displaced in the new structure. Around a third of those roles (about 100) are location-independent positions, designed to maximise opportunities to staff across all of our campuses. It is not currently possible to confirm exactly how many staff will be made redundant.

The proposal is part of La Trobe’s Transformation Program which supports the University’s Strategic Plan 2020-2030, developed last year to help the University emerge from COVID-19 as a more resilient, future-focused and efficient institution.

The Transformation Program also builds on work that was underway prior to the pandemic to offer greater subject choice and flexible modes of learning to our students and to make changes to the way we work.

The majority of courses and subjects are not affected by the change proposal; we will continue to provide most of our highly sought-after programs across all disciplines and across our regional campuses.  The proposed changes will offer greater breadth and depth of subject and elective offerings in some areas; the online offer will significantly increase majors and subjects for regional students, and some new staff appointments in specialist areas will also increase choice for our students.

We recognise that the proposed scope of this change will be a challenging time for our staff and we are providing a wide range of support during this time.

NOTE: This is a proposal only and potential impacts will depend on the outcomes of the consultation. Decisions will be made following the 3-week consultation and then a period of analysis and review.

ENDS

La Trobe University Change Proposal

BACKGROUND

NOTE: This is a proposal only and potential impacts will depend on the outcomes of the consultation. Final decisions will be made following the 3-week consultation and then a period of analysis and review.

Changes proposed

We are proposing changes to the University’s operating model which will improve our systems and ways of working. This will allow us to focus more sharply on our strengths and distinctiveness in teaching and research, simplify our business processes and operations, and ensure we can continue to make a positive difference to our students, communities and partners.

The proposal focuses on a simpler organisational structure, standardisation of leadership roles and consolidation of functions and activities to remove duplication. This will provide clearer accountabilities and focus on the University’s core activity of teaching and research, with suitable support for those functions. Key elements of the proposal include:

  • Replacing the current two-College model with a single proposed Office of the Provost into which 10 academic Schools report;
  • Consolidation of some disciplines and departments within Schools to align more closely with the University’s strategic objectives;
  • Consolidation and alignment of functions in professional staff structures to ensure consistent, high-quality support to the core activities of teaching and research. This includes centralisation of support in student administration and student engagement, centralisation of professional and administrative support for learning and teaching, and strengthened capacity and coordination around industry engagement;
  • Strengthened Indigenous academic leadership and support for Indigenous students and staff, and clear leadership and consolidated support for wellbeing, disability and inclusion for students and staff.

A digital transformation strategy, which will deliver innovation and support staff in effective workload management, underpins the approach to new ways of working outlined in the proposal.

Staffing impact
  • Where possible, redeployment will be the first option for people displaced in the proposed structure.
  • While roles are proposed for closure, a range of new roles are proposed to be created which align with the University’s strategic ambitions, and which will offer opportunities to some displaced staff.
  • More professional roles are potentially impacted than academic. This reflects the focus we are placing on our core activity of teaching and research. It also reflects the consolidation and centralisation of professional functions to create less duplication and clearer roles and accountabilities, the consolidation of academic support roles under the proposed Single Provost model and around course rationalisation. However, while professional roles are more impacted, there is also potential for those displaced staff to apply for new and available roles in the proposed structure.
  • After direct appointments into new positions and Expressions of Interest, it is expected that about 230 staff will be displaced. However, some of these staff will secure new positions at La Trobe – including vacant positions – across all campuses. Around 300 new roles are proposed of which about 100 roles are location-independent, maximising opportunities to staff across all of our campuses.
  • As these appointments have not yet taken place and are contingent on the change proposals being adopted and the outcomes of EOIs and ‘open selection’ job opportunities, the exact number of staff redundancies is not yet known.
  • We estimate that, assuming the change proposals are implemented, the net impact will be in the order of a loss of 200 FTE positions (financial equivalent), delivering a saving of around $28m.
  • This figure is less than the 250-300 FTE (financial equivalent) positions previously forecast, owing to a slightly improved financial position. This can be attributed to a higher-than-expected number of international students opting to study online with the University; the impact of government funding boosts including the National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund, Victorian Higher Education State Investment Fund and Research Support Program block grants; and additional non-salary savings such as reduced utilities costs and a reduction in capital funded from operating sources.
  • Around 290 vacant positions will not continue into the proposed future state, allowing for a decrease in positions without a staffing impact.
  • Senior executive staff:
    • Salary costs for the most senior executives (ESCM3 and ESMC4) will be reduced from pre-COVID levels by more than 25 per cent, with a 21 per cent reduction in FTE
    • Overall, the FTE and spend on executive staff will reduce from pre-COVID levels.
    • The number of Senior Executive Group members has already reduced by more than 25 per cent since January 2020 (11 to 8 members)
Financial information
  • The Jobs Protection Framework saved 225 jobs and reduced the magnitude of changes we need to make in 2021. It provided time to plan strategically but didn’t provide permanent savings.
  • Revenue shortfall in 2021 compared to 2019, largely attributed to decline of international students because of continued border closures, is forecast to be $165m.
  • 64 per cent of our savings in 2020-21 are the result of non-salary and capital savings.
  • The University’s pre-Covid (2019 Financial Year) salary budget was $379.8m per annum and proposed under this change proposal is $320.3m.   This $59.5m difference includes the cumulative savings from two voluntary redundancy rounds in 2020 and the change proposal outlined today. The 200 FTE savings this year equates to $28m of the $59.5m.
  • Although the higher education sector’s international enrolments overall are down by only 11 per cent nationally, Victoria has been hit harder (20 per cent down). Commencing international student enrolments have declined significantly (down 45 per cent in Victoria).

Media Contact: Claire Bowers – c.bowers@latrobe.edu.au, 0437 279 903