Report snapshot: Universities 2023

About this report

Financial audit results of the NSW public universities’ financial statements for the year ended 31 December 2023.

Audit findings

Unmodified audit opinions were issued for all ten universities.

Eight universities reported net deficits. Three of these improved on their 2022 results.

Total fees and charges returned to pre-pandemic levels, with 40.5% earned from overseas students from three countries.

Employee related expenses increased 10.2% in 2023 mainly due to an additional 2,830 full time equivalent staff, in response to increased teaching and research activities.

Key issues

The number of findings reported to management has increased to 111 matters in 2023 up from 88 in 2022.

These included one high risk finding and 62 moderate risk findings, a 72% increase from last year.

Gaps identified in universities governance processes included delays in responding to findings and recommendations; staff not attesting compliance with codes of conduct annually; and not capturing and recording staff conflicts of interests within central registers.

Seven of the ten universities have cyber security risks above what they determine as an acceptable risk. Four universities did not have a cyber security uplift program.


Universities should address all recommendations made in the report (see Appendix one for a summary of these).

In particular, there should be a focus on prioritising remediation of wage underpayments to affected employees; ensuring a centralised conflict of interest register is maintained for all staff; considering emerging risks in university risk registers; ensuring controlled entities are considered when determining internal audit plans; and focusing efforts to improve cyber security risk management and cyber resilience capability.

Fast facts

There are ten public universities in NSW, with 53 controlled entities in Australia and 25 overseas controlled entities.

  • $12.5b total revenue in 2023, an increase of $1.5 billion (13.4%) from 2022
  • 88,592 overseas students enrolments (EFTSL) in 2023, an increase of 9,469 EFTSL (12%) from 2022
  • 1 high risk finding identified (six in 2022)
  • $12.6b total expenses in 2023, an increase of $1.4 billion (11.3%) from 2022
  • 194,932 domestic students enrolments (EFTSL) in 2023, a decrease of 5,141 EFTSL (2.6%) from 2022
  • 32 reported issues were repeat issues

Further information

Please contact Claudia Migotto, Acting Deputy Auditor-General on 9275 7347 or by email.