The Australian National University's scientific reputation could be at stake as a result of its proposal to cut 103 jobs from the College of Science, academics say.
The ANU's largest college had 75 staff accept voluntary separations this year in an effort to claw back $103 million per annum in savings across the university from next year.
Under the proposed changes a further 55 positions would be disestablished and 27 people would be recruited, leaving a net loss of 103 positions.
Among those facing redundancy were two academics who were recently awarded prestigious Australian Research Council discovery grants, throwing their research projects into doubt.
Physics professor Jodie Bradby said the College of Science was slated to take the deepest job cuts across the institution and this could lead to some areas struggling to maintain standards of education and research.
"The magnitude of the cuts in science is problematic," professor Bradby said.
"Science at ANU is a really successful area. We are really big and we have an internationally recognised standard of education."
Dr Rachel Morgain of the Fenner School of Environment and Society said her colleagues were shocked and tired at the end of a difficult year and were now bracing for an increase in workloads.
She said the loss of experts could affect the university's ability to attract and retain students and researchers from around the world.
"ANU's global reputation should be second to none in the country and we are at risk of compromising that," Dr Morgain said.
A university spokesman said the proposed changes would impact on the quantity but not the quality of teaching and research in the future.
"As a university, we now have to narrow the focus of our scientific research, teaching and public engagement," he said.
"We are not making these decisions lightly. These decisions are about ensuring the university's financial recovery and continued strength as we deal with the harsh reality and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic."
Research assistant Lauren Sarre said the fact staff only had two weeks to give feedback on the phase one change proposal was "totally outrageous."
"Two weeks right before Christmas is a horrendous way to round out this already atrocious year," she said.
"Staff have had to do a huge amount of extra work to keep learning and this is how the university is saying thanks."
Changes to the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, the Research School of Biology, the Research School of Chemistry, the Research School of Earth Sciences and the Research School of Physics were outlined in the phase one change proposal.
The document states: "The proposed changes are business-driven and are designed to support ongoing sustainability of the college, to ensure that the college is meeting the future needs of our students, and to ensure that the college continues to contribute strongly to the university's international standing."
The ANU spokesman said research grants being delivered by any staff member who was impacted by any confirmed changes were managed on a case-by-case basis.
An Australian Research Council spokeswoman said all grants were awarded to administering organisations, not individual researchers, and these organisations could apply to request variations to the grant, including personnel changes.
Education Minister Dan Tehan said the federal budget had provided $1 billion for university research and $550.3 million for additional university places and short courses.
"The COVID-19 recession is impacting all Australian businesses and universities are not immune," he said.
Opposition education spokesperson Tanya Plibersek said the Liberals' cuts and attacks on universities led to the loss of more 12,000 jobs.
"Because of Scott Morrison, Australian discoveries and inventions, and the jobs that come with them, will be lost. The cost of that is enormous," she said.
The College of Science employed 917 staff in 2019 or 870.4 full-time equivalent positions.
In 2021 it will have a budget of $95.8 million, about $15 million less than what was spent in 2019.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.