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Adelaide Uni shuts down for week after pandemic hits bottom line

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The University of Adelaide will completely shut down next week, with students across all faculties and campuses warned that staff will be uncontactable as the institution continues to grapple with a serious financial blow inflicted by the pandemic.

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An announcement posted on the university’s website states it will close for business from Monday, with the exception of the North Terrace campus “Hub Central” study areas and lounges, and student accommodation buildings at the Roseworthy campus.

The university will reopen to staff and students from 7am on Tuesday April 27.

According to the announcement, the university is “working to minimise the impact of this closure on [its] research, and teaching and learning activities”.

The Ask Adelaide support service will be open via online chat only and students will still have access to the university crisis line.

The shutdown will occur while students are on a two-week mid-semester break, but staff who work year-round have been told to go on leave and will not respond to work phone calls or emails.

At least one faculty emailed staff and students this week to inform them that its employees would be uncontactable unless they are performing essential services.

The closure is sparked by negotiations between the university and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) last year to avoid 200 full-time staff redundancies following what was then projected to be a $225 million loss in university revenue over the 2020-21 financial year.

The revenue hit was largely spurred by the loss of international students, who were barred from coming to Australia due to ongoing coronavirus-prompted border closures.

In response, the union and university agreed to introduce a “purchased leave” arrangement, whereby staff salaries are reduced each fortnight in exchange for access to more leave.

Staff must take the additional leave during specified “closedown periods” designated by the university.

Those who are exempt from the purchased leave arrangement have been forced to take annual or long service leave to cover next week’s shut down period.

Casual workers who are not entitled to leave will be forced to forgo payment.

InDaily contacted the university and NTEU for comment.

In SeptemberInDaily reported the university would defer a previous decision to cut staff wages after reporting “better than expected” second semester enrolment figures, but 200 full-time jobs would be axed.

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