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Curtin University
Note to staff

12 November 2014


Addressing the impact of the half-cohort in 2015

In my recent VC Forum I mentioned that Curtin intended using leave management as one strategy to soften the impact of reduced student demand in 2015 due to the half-cohort. This is consistent with the principles of change management in the Curtin Enterprise Agreement.

We have already implemented a series of strategies to minimise the expected reduction in enrolments during the half-cohort years, including vigorous domestic and international student recruitment campaigns for our courses and pathway programs. Nevertheless, a drop in student enrolments for 2015 is expected.

The senior executive team recognises the need to preserve our staffing capacity through the half-cohort period and maintain the ongoing sustainability of Curtin. To achieve this, the University is taking the following steps:

i) staff are being encouraged to take additional accrued leave in 2015, with a goal of an average six weeks of annual leave or long service leave per staff member. If this is achieved, we would reduce wage costs by around $15 million, easing the pressure on our Schools and Areas. We have already factored this initiative into 2015 budgets and Line Managers have been instructed to look towards accommodating the extra leave in their operational planning for 2015.

ii) extending the Christmas/New Year closedown periods 2014/2015 and 2015/2016.

Leave taking

Staff who do not have additional leave available to them, or may have other leave already booked, are not obliged to take either annual or long service leave. However, around 500 staff have accrued excessive leave balances that if taken, would significantly reduce the need for more direct cost reduction measures in 2015 School and Area budgets.

Christmas/New Year closedowns extended

To assist staff to schedule additional leave, the University is planning to extend the Christmas/New Year closedown periods. Staff with sufficient accrued leave will be asked to book either annual or long service leave for these extended periods.  

Specifically, the 2014/2015 closedown had scheduled a return to work on Monday January 5th 2015. This has now been extended to Monday 12th January. The 2015/2016 closedown had been scheduled to commence on Thursday 24th December 2015 but has been brought forward to Friday 18th December 2015. The extension of the closedown periods requires staff who have not already scheduled time off to take nine days of accrued leave during that period. These periods have been selected due to the higher number of staff who have already pre-booked leave in this timeframe.

While no additional University closedown is planned for Easter 2015, the tuition free period in weeks six and seven of Semester One adjacent to Easter similarly provides a convenient time for many staff to schedule leave.

It is recognised that a small number of staff will need to work during closedown periods and managers will work with them and accommodate personal circumstances where possible.

I realise these measures may not be ideal for everyone. However, by working together we can minimise the need for reductions in staffing numbers over the half-cohort period.

  1. Wilma Van Boxtel- Zoethout November 12, 2014 10:32pm

    I just heard the education minister saying the opposite on the news, he is talking about an increase in student numbers at universities for 2015…

  2. Greg Knight November 13, 2014 12:06pm

    Hi Wilma,

    The half cohort refers to the reduction in commencing enrolments from year 12 leavers next year.

    This is occurring because of changes to Primary School entry age, made by the WA State Government in 2002. The issue is local to WA.

    I believe the Federal Minister is referring to national estimates.

    For more information feel free to contact the Office of Strategy and Planning. or 9266 3888


  3. Lin Fritschi November 13, 2014 12:23pm

    This seems a bit unfair on staff new to Curtin who do not have accrued leave and want to keep their precious leave days for use for later planned events. Also some of us will be need this time to finalize NHMRC and ARC grants. Are there any options NOT to take these days off?

    • William Ryan November 13, 2014 3:28pm

      Hi Lin,
      Well the invitation is primarily intended for staff who have positive leave balances, though new staff may not appreciate that Curtin extends an advance of 20 days annual leave to staff each January which gets reconciled with final payments if you leave the University before achieving a positive leave balance. As Paul correctly notes below, the University can not force anyone to take leave, not would it want to, unless folk are not accessing their leave regularly to charge up the batteries. I suggest that if you need to work in the set periods, discuss this with your Head and maybe another more suitable time for leave taking can be arranged.

      • Paull Weber November 17, 2014 1:09pm

        Dear Bill,

        I do understand that Curtin needs to reduce accrued leave balances to improve the balance sheet, and as luck would have it I am already taking leave on these dates, so this is not a personally motivated response.

        However, I do question the logic of the argument put so hope I’m missing something.

        As an example, in our school, there are only two(2) full time academic staff from about 26 who have co-ordination responsibilities that are associated with first year students. These two staff manage large cohorts of students but most tutors in those units would not accrue annual leave anyhow as sessional employees.
        We would not be much different from most other schools in that regard.
        The proposal is supposed to prepare us for a downturn in 2016 and 2017 ( 2nd/3rd year students, for most of us) by taking extra leave in 2015. So the proposal positively effects 26 for the workload planning of 2.

        Can you fault my logic?

  4. Paul Davey November 13, 2014 1:44pm

    I don’t think they can force you to take leave unless you have excess leave:

    Excess Accrued Annual Leave means annual leave accrued in previous calendar years in excess of 300 hours (40 days).

    38.5.1 If a Staff Member has Excess Accrued Annual Leave, the University may direct the Staff Member to clear within 12 months up to 150 hours (20 days) of the Excess Accrued Annual Leave, unless there are mitigating circumstances that restrict the taking of annual leave within this period.

    The consideration for you may be that support areas of the uni will be skeleton staff only, or closed.

  5. Alma Dender November 14, 2014 8:16am

    I feel that this statement is rather unclear as to whether the whole university is on close down for that period till the 12th January. I would like further clarification please as to the effect on staff who do not have excess leave – do they take this leave but it is “extra” and not taken from their leave accrual? Generally the period after the New Year break is a really important preparation time for those teaching in Study Period one whose teaching starts on the 12/13th in this instance.

  6. William Ryan November 14, 2014 9:23am

    Hi Alma,
    I’ll try to clarify. The whole University is on extended closedown till Monday 12 January 2015 except for essential services. Your Head is best to consult on whether your School has essential programs over this period. For example, if you are teaching 12/13 January it is understandable that you may need to work. But if this is not the case, then the Vice Chancellor invites staff to take additional annual leave for 5-9 January 2015 and again 21-24 December 2015 and help reduce the financial impact of the expected drop in enrolments through the half-cohort. This is not ‘extra’ leave as you put it, but debited from your leave accrual. You apply through Employee Kiosk just like normally taking leave. Alma, no-one is being forced, but if you can take additional leave in 2015, it will help the bottom line and be greatly appreciated I am sure by the Vice Chancellor and her senior team.

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