The sector’s peak body, Universities Australia, estimates about $1.8 billion in revenue was lost in 2020 compared to the year before.
Compared to pre-pandemic revenue for 2020, the loss amounts to more than $3 billion.
The sector is preparing to lose another $2 billion this year, largely due to international students still unable to travel to Australia.
The nation’s international border was closed last March and is expected to remain shut for most of this year.
Universities Australia boss Catriona Jackson says the hit will be felt for years.
“If an international student didn’t enrol in 2020, the loss would be felt for what would have been their entire three or four years at university,” she said.
“No sector can absorb revenue declines this large without staff losses.
“The loss of any, and every, one of those staff is personally devastating, bad for the university community and Australia’s knowledge reservoir.”
Jackson has thanked the federal government for supporting research funding with $1 billion, and said the peak body would continue to push for more support.
The sector was effectively excluded from the government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy program, despite warnings the decision would lead to huge job losses.
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