The high rate of casualisation has been described as Australian universities’ “dirty secret” by unions.

It appears that almost 70 per cent of university staff are in insecure employment, and reports say thousands have been laid off amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Victoria is the only state in which academic institutions are compelled by law to report casual employment data.

Analysis of this data shows 68.74 per cent of staff are employed as casuals or on short-term contracts. Insiders say the Victorian figure is reflected nationally in Federal Department of Education data.

“[The numbers] are terrible,” says National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) president Dr Alison Barnes.

“They [the teachers] have no financial security and that means it's difficult to take holidays, get mortgages, plan a family but it's also that chronic insecurity leads to stress and problems of emotional wellbeing.”

The University of Melbourne, Australia's richest tertiary institution, employs 72.9 per cent of staff on insecure terms, as does Monash University with 72.8 per cent of its staff.

Reports say up to 5,000 staff at just two Melbourne institutions have no more work.

The University of New South Wales told staff this week that it wants almost 500 voluntary redundancies by the end of the month, the latest in a long lit of similar cuts.

It is estimated that 21,000 full-time equivalent jobs in the university sector will be at risk by the end of the year, about 7,000 of which are estimated to be research-related academic positions.