As the tertiary education sector sheds hundreds of jobs across the country, one regional university has evaded the multi-million dollar bloodletting, according to the university Vice Chancellor.
Just 7 per cent of University of New England students are international students - and "most" of them are still attending uni.
In part as a result, UNE Vice Chancellor Brigid Heywood said, rumours of the regional university's demise are greatly exaggerated.
"UNE is not exposed to the same degree of decline in international student numbers reported by other universities in Australia," she said.
"In 2019 around 7 per cent of UNE students were international. Of those students stranded overseas by the COVID-19 travel bans, the majority have been transitioned successfully to online study from their home countries."
After years of drought, months of bushfire and then COVID-19 the university forecasts a deficit of some $25 million in 2020.
The university has imposed a freeze on new hiring, travel and other discretionary expenditure to make up the shortfall.
Staff have also been asked to take leave to get that financial obligation off the books.
And Ms Heywood stopped short of committing not to reduce staffing, saying "UNE is walking through a number of scenarios to resolve the budget deficit".
But UNE is clearly better off than other regional universities.
The University of Wollongong last Friday announced hundreds of job cuts, and a $90 million financial deficit, blaming the effect of COVID-19 on the international student market.
While Rockhampton's University of Central Queensland revealed it would close three satellite sites and shed hundreds of jobs, with Southern Cross University in northern NSW also reviewing campus cuts.
The situation is just as bad in the cities, with Melbourne University and UNSW both estimating a billion-dollar hit to their bottom lines over three years.
UNE said their forecast demand "looks strong" as early as July, at the start of Trimester 2. International numbers are holding steady, according to Ms Heywood.
"During COVID-19 all students were transitioned to online delivery so their studies were not interrupted," she said.
"Assessments and exams have been transitioned to online this trimester. UNE is one of the few universities in Australia conducting online exams to scale."
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