University of Adelaide announces 2020 financial result

Goodman cres

Ahead of its Annual Report being published next month, the University of Adelaide has today released its audited financial results for 2020.

The University statutory net operating surplus was $40.8 million for 2020 (compared with a surplus of $42.9 million in 2019).

The 2020 statutory net operating result includes $10 million in donations and bequests as well as $20 million of research funding from the Federal Government to establish the South Australian immunoGENomics Cancer Institute (SAiGENCI). Without these receipts, the 2020 surplus would have been $10 million.

The University reported an underlying 2020 net operating result of $9.3 million (down from $12 million in 2019). This represents discretionary funds available to be reinvested in the University’s critical operations of teaching and learning, research, and infrastructure.

The University recorded a relatively steady financial performance for 2020 compared with 2019 due mainly to:

  • Proactive steps taken by management and University-wide support from staff to deliver comprehensive financial savings measures against the impacts of COVID-19, including: staff purchased leave, voluntary separation of 157 staff, and a pause on infrastructure projects, staff hiring and other expenditure (total savings: $90 million)
  • Better-than-expected enrolments (total international student revenue: $254 million in 2020, the same as in 2019) – but with a reduction against budget targets of $293 million
  • A record year for research revenue (total research revenue: $234 million in 2020, compared with $185 million in 2019)
  • A record year for philanthropy from more than 1,600 donors.
“It is critical for the future of South Australia that our number 1 export industry, education, is able to thrive again, by bringing international students back to the State in a safe and responsible manner.”Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj AC

Vice-Chancellor warns of further challenges ahead

“In simplistic terms, the University’s financial result for 2020 looks better than expected, but the global pandemic has caused a much more complex and challenging situation than these numbers show,” says Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj AC, who joined the University of Adelaide in February 2021.

“In a pre-COVID environment, the University of Adelaide started 2020 predicting significant growth in both domestic and international students, and we were set to exceed $1 billion in operational revenue and play a continued key role in South Australia’s number 1 export market: education.

“After the pandemic hit, the University’s financial position for 2020 fell well short of its initial targeted revenue projections. This would have placed the institution under much greater financial stress had it not been for the University management’s swift action – and the support of our staff – to implement a range of savings measures.

“The University saw a reduction in the number of new international students enrolling in semester 2, 2020. This has led to an ongoing reduction in the pipeline of international students, which means that our University’s finances will be impacted very dramatically in the coming years.

“The real concern for Australia is that 2021 international commencements in universities appear to be down by 37%,* and are currently down by 17% in semester 1 at the University of Adelaide, with strong indications of significant further deterioration. This will lead to sustained losses for Australian universities for at least three years.

“Without a rapid opening of borders to international students, this will be exacerbated to what could be crisis-like dimensions that will threaten the country’s research base dramatically, at a time when we are looking to utilise it to pivot to a more resilient economy with enhanced sovereign capability.

“It is critical for the future of South Australia that our number 1 export industry, education, is able to thrive again, by bringing international students back to the State in a safe and responsible manner. I have been very pleased with the State Government’s commitment to achieving this and delighted that Prime Minister Morrison has recently declared the return of international students is now the ‘priority’,” Professor Høj says.

* as reported recently in The Australian newspaper (4 May 2021).

Snapshot of the University of Adelaide in 2020:

  • Revenue of $977 million
  • Responsible for 3,900 (FTE) direct jobs in South Australia
  • Approx. 23,000 students (EFTSL), including more than 7,400 international students
  • Total research income of $234 million
  • Ranked the number 1 university in the State, 8 in Australia (7 by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings), and 106, 118 and 152 in the world (QS, Times Higher Education, and Academic Ranking of World Universities respectively).
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