University of Canberra College staff are bracing for job losses as the school grapples with the fallout of coronavirus, and they say the worst is yet to come.
Staff have been told three redundancies and a reduction in hours for one staff member will be proposed to the college board as an initial cost-cutting measure, but staff say the worst pain will come months down the track.
The college is majority owned by private education provider Navitas, and offers pathway courses into higher education for international and domestic students.
The proposed cuts come a year after the college announced it was staring down the barrel of insolvency. However, after a change in structure including redundancies last year it seemed the college had found its footing, employee of more than 20 years, Carol Drew said.
"The process we're going through with the virus, in a way, isn't new to us," she said.
"International enrolments have been dropping off for quite some years.
"We've been a victim of that slow process where people overseas are looking to their own countries for quality education."
"We've always had to manage what we offer in a way that makes it economically viable."
Ms Drew had been happy with the "up front" and "transparent" communication from UCC management and said the higher education sector needed to campaign harder for government assistance.
UC College director and principal Lynda Mathey said the college was preparing for "extensive disruption" to international student numbers over the next 12 months.
She said the college was proposing several ways to cut costs and had consulted with staff on measures to "reduce labour costs appropriately".
"Our intention is to protect as many jobs as possible while ensuring that we are able to deliver for our students during this prolonged period of uncertainty and beyond," she said.
Megan Lee coordinates the college's English language centre, which caters primarily to international students.
"There's a much higher proportion of international students at the college than at the university," she said.
Teachers have begun providing online courses to students stuck around the world in places like China and Oman, in the hope it will keep enrolments up.
"We're worried about the future, whether we'll be enrolling many students at all," Ms Lee said.
"Our outlook is not healthy."
The college was looking to increase its domestic student enrolment by directing courses to local needs.
Ms Drew said the small college was in a good position to pivot its programs to meet the needs of Australians looking to reskill post-coronavirus but didn't have the scores to access university.
"There is a chance for people to rethink themselves and come back to university, and the college can play a very big role in that," she said.
It comes as the National Tertiary Education Union's job protection framework was scrapped on a national level. The deal proposed allowing temporary pay cuts for university staff to minimise job losses.
The framework is still open to institutions who want to sign up, but would only include UCC is both the university and Navitas opted in.
NTEU ACT branch secretary Dr Cathy Day said that was unlikely and there was "very little" more the union could do to help college staff.
She said the union would continue to lobby the federal government for financial assistance.