THE union representing staff and lecturers at Charles Sturt University has demanded further clarification over the sabbatical of vice-chancellor Andrew Vann.
The Daily Liberal reported in June that Professor Vann was about to start a six-month sabbatical which, a university spokesperson said at the time, had been approved prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.
At the same time, CSU confirmed it had begun advertising for a new vice-chancellor to take over from Professor Vann, who had been contracted until December 2021.
National Tertiary Education Union assistant secretary Dr Damien Cahill said the union was deeply concerned the university was making decisions with enormous implications for its future while the vice-chancellor was "missing in action".
"CSU is facing the biggest crisis in its history. It has announced massive course cuts and is seeking to make over 200 workers redundant," Dr Cahill said.
"In this context, for the vice-chancellor to take six-months' sabbatical while presumably also pocketing his more than $800,000 annual salary is both grossly negligent and deeply insensitive to CSU workers and their local communities."
CSU announced last week that almost 50 course offerings would be axed, with seven to be revitalised and major changes to occur for a further 61 across its campuses.
In Bathurst, the Bachelor of Business degrees and communications, theatre media and creative industries courses would be consolidated under a plan to save costs.
Dr Cahill also questioned the decision to install an independent advisory firm, KPMG, to undertake an external audit of the university.
A university spokesperson said this decision has been made on the advice of the Minister for Regional Education Andrew Gee.
"Why KPMG, what are they examining?" Dr Cahill said.
Dr Cahill said staff at the university were "very concerned for their jobs".
"People want answers," Dr Cahill said.
"... All the evidence indicates there's something going on we haven't heard about."
In response to the union's questions, acting vice chancellor Professor John Germov reiterated that Professor Vann's sabbatical and leave had been approved by the university prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
A university spokesperson would not be drawn on speculation of heavy job losses at the Bathurst campus.
"As we are still in this process, we do not have a final number on how many staff positions may potentially be affected," the spokesperson said.