A surplus is still a surplus.
ANU NTEU members received an email from the Vice-Chancellor yesterday arguing the position that an $82 million surplus revealed yesterday in the 2011 ANU Annual Report is really a $12 million surplus. This is clearly an an attempt to defend his earlier unsubstantiated position that the university was in some form of financial distress.
The Vice-Chancellor condescended to point out that the University's 'accounting practices have previously been explained to the NTEU', and expressed his disappointment 'that they have chosen to misrepresent the real position.'
The notion that there is a 'real position' in the accounts, and that an 'explanation of our accounting practices' ought to clarify to everyone's satisfaction what the real position is, is a nonsense. Any first year accounting student learns that accounts can be framed in different ways for different purposes, depending on whether it is more advantageous to talk a surplus up or down.
A detailed analysis of University accounts will have to be done by those with more accounting knowledge than I. However, I will make the obvious point: the Vice-Chancellor speaks of 'unspent restricted research grant funds' and 'one-off capital items' as if the university were never going to receive a research or capital grant again. Research funding flows in regularly and out regularly, with some funds carried over from year to year. Capital grants are also made in many or most years.
The Vice-Chancellor has claimed that one reason he needs a large 'underlying' surplus is to accumulate funds for capital expenditures; and yet he wants to exclude capital grant income from this notional 'underlying' surplus.
Ian Young implied that the surplus identified in the University's public, audited accounts is somehow less 'real' than his confected concept of an 'underlying surplus' is. Yet even that talked-down 'underlying' figure is still a surplus, and to present this as a justification for massive job and budget cuts is, simply, outrageous, and wrong.
ANU has one of the strongest balance sheets of any Australian university. The Annual Report outcome announced this week completely supports that there is absolutely no justification for either across the board cuts or specific cuts to the School of Music. Indeed, if Professor Young has any expenditure problem, perhaps it is slightly closer to home, in the Chancelry.
ACT Division Secretary
ACT Division Secretary