Years of reliance on full-fee paying international students have left the university sector unable to cope with COVID-19 travel bans, according to an expert in higher education policy.
Australian National University academic Andrew Norton told The Daily Advertiser he believes no university will have "any choice but to cut costs".
The tertiary education sector has a limit to how many tax-payer subsidised - or fee-help - domestic students it can take in, while it is encouraged to attract a strong quota of profitable international students.
It comes after Charles Sturt University (CSU) - which has a campus in Wagga - announced a massive $80 million revenue deficit that will require staff downsizing.
While staff are awaiting confirmation on how the exact financial strain has been calculated, the university has pinned much of the shortfall on its inability to continue attracting overseas dollars at this time.
To assist universities this year, the federal government recently announced an $18 billion funding package.
That is added to the additional $18 billion that was provided from the Commonwealth in 2018 which brought the sector's total revenue for that year to over $34 billion.
"Universities, like everyone else, will have to look for savings and reassess their priorities within a more constrained financial environment," the federal minister for education Dan Tehan said.
"Australia's university leaders are up to the challenge of minimising the impact of COVID-19 on their operations."
As the economy begins recovery next year, Mr Norton believes there could be an "unexpected demand" for university qualifications among domestic students. This, he said, should be the focus of restructuring efforts.
Alumni of Wagga's former teachers' college and founders of the Friends of CSU group, Doug Hill and Trish Gray agree that the university needs to consolidate a return to its regional focus.
"I would like to see CSU as a regional university again [by] going back to its grassroots and re-establishing its face-to-face campus life," Ms Gray said.
Despite the potential for devastating job losses, Mr Hill expressed his hopes that the restructuring would "start a new future" for the university.
"CSU faces the same challenges as the rest of the nation. After all of this, we won't be the same country, we won't have the same economy and so just as Australia has to pilot a new future, so does its universities," he said.
The Daily Advertiser asked Charles Sturt University to comment, but the university declined.