Staff numbers have shrunk and student numbers have jumped at Federation University contributing to a big turnaround in the uni's financial fortunes.
The 2018 annual report, tabled in the Victorian Parliament this week, showed the university had no debt and total revenue of $330 million with an operating surplus of $6.6 million in 2018, compared to a $6.85 million loss in 2017.
Staff numbers were three per cent lower in 2018 while student enrolments increased 12.1 per cent to 23,444 across the university and TAFE.
During 2018 the university also underwent a restructure which involved moving from four faculties and eight schools to a flat structure of six schools.
Six new Deans of School and a general manager (academic) were appointed to run the new structure, which contributed to an almost tripling of the amount spent on recruitment compared to the previous year.
The turnaround came after a Victorian Auditor General Report that questioned the university's viability due to its financial performance and declining student numbers.
"This is a turning point for Federation University, both financially and strategically. Like any organisation, universities have to modernise and this strong financial result shows you can achieve a lot with a real focus on your day to day operations, by modernising your structure and streamlining processes," said Federation University vice chancellor Professor Helen Bartlett.
"We've had to take a long hard look at everything we do and how we can do it better - the proof is in these outstanding results. We're well placed to capitalise on future growth and there's a real sense of pride that is growing within the university."
One of the biggest growth sectors was international students, with a 72.5 per cent increase in international students which Prof Barlett said was driven through increases at external education partners and on campus.
The number of domestic students at the university's seven campuses dropped by just over 1000 to 14,466.
While higher education enrolments surged 28 per cent, the number of TAFE students fell 18.8 per cent which the university said was "primarily due to some TAFE courses not being offered in 2018 as a result of a contract to deliver training to Vic Roads staff ending in 2017".
TAFE numbers are expected to have rebounded in 2019 with the introduction of free TAFE courses in pre-apprenticeship and other areas.
"So far in 2019 FedUni TAFE has 350 more students than for the same time last year. The popularity of free TAFE is a factor in that," said FedUni TAFE executive director Barry Wright.
Prof Bartlett also outlined the non-financial growth in the university, with Fed Uni also recording outstanding results in the latest research, student and employer satisfaction rankings.
For the first time, the quality of research at Federation University was rated as well above world standards in nursing, human movement and sports science, environmental sciences, applied mathematics, clinical sciences, civil engineering and environmental science and management in the Excellence in Research Australia results, released in March.
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