A transition to online learning as a result of the coronavirus pandemic has impacted academic outcomes of University of Tasmania students, the student union says.
However, the Tasmanian University Union does not anticipate staff redundancies and other structural changes to impact on outcomes.
TUU president Braydon Broad said the impact of the coronavirus on students at UTAS had been significant, with many struggling with the cost of living and dealing with the transition to online learning.
"We have seen a tremendous spike in students accessing welfare services both within the student union and the university," he said.
"Online learning has led many students to struggle academically and question whether they are getting what they paid for.
We've seen the university act to help students in the academic space but budget constraints have made the prospect of students receiving tuition fee discounts highly improbable.
Tertiary education institutions have been hit financially by the pandemic, with UTAS no exception. In June, UTAS vice-chancellor Rufus Black announced the institution would lose between $30 and $34 million in 2020 and has forecast to lose between $60 and $120 million in 2021 and 2022. A voluntary redundancy program has also been set up for UTAS staff across the board, and recently existing staff voted for a pay freeze.
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The pay freeze will see staff forgo scheduled pay raises for two years.
The biggest hit to this bottom line is a decline in the number of international students studying at UTAS. Travel restrictions and border closures have effectively halted international student numbers.
According to its 2018 annual report, UTAS had 5561 international students, but they contributed more than $86 million in income.
Mr Broad said as he understood it, the majority of UTAS redundancies would not impact the ability of students to meet learning outcomes.
"This is encouraging, but we know that less staff may have implications for the university's ability to respond to pressing circumstances in an organisationally coherent way - which may have obvious implications for students down the track," he said.
Mr Broad said the union remained optimistic and thought the university had handled the situation responsibly by taking on debt.
"It's no secret, however, that the entire higher education sector is at risk at the moment and the University of Tasmania is no exception."
The voluntary redundancy program has attracted the interest of staff and Professor Black said it was these measures that would set UTAS up for a sustainable future in the long term.