New York University Sydney campus given JobKeeper payments but Australian public universities miss out

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The Australian Government dished out JobKeeper payments to the Sydney-based campus of New York University (NYU) — while all Australian public universities missed out.

NYU, which rakes in about $16.5 billion in revenue each year, is ranked the 11th best school in the US and sits just outside the prestigious Ivy League.

It is unclear how much money NYU received, but Treasurer Josh Frydenberg confirmed to the ABC it did receive payments to distribute to staff.

In May, private universities such as Notre Dame University, Bond University, Torrens University and the University of Divinity were granted an exemption to the existing JobKeeper eligibility criteria placed on all other universities.

Overall, Australia’s 39 public universities receive $18 billion in Federal Government funding for domestic students, but none have received JobKeeper.

Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi said although she did not want to deny Sydney-based NYU staff “relief”, there was a double standard.

“The Government should have exactly the same rules for universities and not try to exclude public universities,” Senator Faruqi said.

NYU’s Sydney campus did not respond to a request for comment and Education Minister Dan Tehan directed questions to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who administers JobKeeper.

The Treasurer said all universities were “eligible” for JobKeeper, but the only reason Australia’s public universities did not qualify was that the sector’s falls in revenue were not steep enough.

“In April, the Morrison Government guaranteed funding for universities at their current levels, even if there was a fall in domestic student numbers due to the coronavirus,” he said.

“This has seen the Government provide Australia’s public universities with $18 billion this year.”

Mr Frydenberg did not directly answer a question about how a foreign university could qualify.

“With respect to individual JobKeeper recipients, the Government does not comment on the tax affairs of any individual or entity,” he said.

Earlier this year, the ABC revealed the tertiary education sector relies on long-serving insecure workers for as much as 70 per cent of its workforce and thousands have been quietly let go since the pandemic hit.

There have been at least 11,000 confirmed additional job losses in the sector.

Shadow Education Minister Tanya Plibersek described the decision to dish out payments to NYU as “stunning hypocrisy”.

“University staff have been sacked [because Scott Morrison] refused to help,” she said.

“What does he say to those workers [and] their families?”

While Senator Faruqi said Australia’s public universities were “in crisis”.

“Hundreds of people are losing their jobs every single day,” she said.

“We know thousands more jobs are going to be lost before the end of the year. This is a result of the Government deliberately locking public universities out of JobKeeper.

“It is absolutely appalling and disgraceful”.

Job losses at RMIT

Yesterday, the Australian National University became the latest in a long line of universities to confirm mass redundancies, announcing 465 job losses.

Just hours earlier, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) also told staff 256 positions — 3.8 per cent of its workforce — would be made redundant.

And more job cuts will come today at Melbourne’s RMIT where another 250 permanent ongoing staff will be axed, bringing job losses at that school to at least 1,200.

RMIT staff member and National Tertiary Education Union committee member Liam Ward blamed university sector management as much as the Government.

“Working conditions are being slashed, jobs are being slashed and they’re getting million-dollar and half-million-dollar salaries,” Dr Ward said.

It is understood RMIT appointed a new deputy vice-chancellor on an estimated salary of about $500,000 just three days ago.

Dr Ward said the revelation would not be popular with staff as the union consulted on job losses today.

“This will go down like a lead balloon,” he said.

“We’re being told that hundreds of staff have to lose their job supposedly to make the whole operation more efficient and streamlined.”

In a statement, RMIT likened the appointment to a title change for a university leader.

It said it recognised important work in a growth area for the university.

By national education and parenting reporter Conor Duffy (Original ABC Article)

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