College of Sciences under the microscope in Massey staff-trimming plans

Massey University is proceeding with plans to cut jobs and is calling for voluntary redundancy of up to 125 positions, according to a Stuff report yesterday.

Tertiary Education Union organiser Ben Schmidt said staff had been left devastated and angry after vice-chancellor Jan Thomas made the announcement this week.

The College of Sciences, along with the Library and College of Health, was hit hardest “with 90 to 100 jobs on the line”, Mr Schmidt claimed.

RNZ had  portended this development in a report on June 29, which said staff were fearing Massey University was preparing to make significant job cuts, with proposed new rules that will eliminate some courses.

The university was consulting on a policy for dealing with courses with low enrolments, and a policy that would ensure each subject had just one physical campus for in-person teaching unless it could be justified financially.

At that time the university said it was working to understand the effect of the government’s recently announced cash injection for universities. 

Massey had reported a deficit of $8.8 million after enrolments fell last year, and enrolments had fallen again this year, RNZ said.

A fortnight later, an update from RNZ included a statement from Massey University that additional government funding for the tertiary sector, while welcome, was unlikely to resolve longer-term financial challenges.

“The university is currently exploring Voluntary Enhanced Cessation (VEC) as just one mechanism to help reduce costs while ensuring staffing levels still meet our strategic and operational needs,” the statement said.

Voluntary redundancy did not target individual positions, and instead invited expressions of interest.

“We can advise that some staff in recent weeks have been actively enquiring whether the university would be offering any VEC arrangements for staff.”

In its report yesterday, Stuff quoted Ben Schmidt as saying the job losses were so significant that the public should be asking: “Will there be a university, will there be a college of sciences at the end of this?”

Mr Schmidt said:

“It is unbelievably short-sighted of the vice-chancellor to keep slashing jobs across the university when the Government has allocated a significant amount of new money intended to stop the cuts, along with an upcoming review of tertiary funding.”

Other universities have been grappling with budget deficits and declining enrolments, and job losses are expected at Victoria and Otago universities despite the Government rescue package.

Sources:  Stuff and RNZ


Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog