Financial challenges and falling student numbers are likely to lead to job cuts in the University of Otago’s School of Physical Education, pro-vice-chancellor Professor Richard Barker has said.
The news comes in the same week as the university was named the seventh best in the world for studying sport and sport-related disciplines.
Speaking to the Otago Daily Times earlier in the week, Barker said staff were offered voluntary redundancies at a meeting just over a week ago, before a review of the school that is “likely” to result in staff cuts.
A total of 44 permanent academic and general staff currently work in the school. The number of voluntary redundancies that will be sought is currently unknown.
“We are not sure at this point, but if we can meet the needs of some staff through voluntary severance we see this as a constructive step,” Barker said.
Asked if the rankings could affect the outcome of the review and potentially mean fewer job cuts, Barker told the ODT that “the proposal for change … is related to ensuring its operational efficiency rather than addressing its research and teaching excellence, which are clearly demonstrated by these rankings.”
Barker claimed job cuts might be a necessary way of making sure the university maintains its status as one of the best places in the world to study sports.
One of the TEU’s organisers at the University of Otago, Kris Smith, said she was surprised to hear that some staff in the highest ranked university department in New Zealand face losing their jobs.
“Staff have worked incredibly hard to make the university’s sports school a world leading place to study and we congratulate them for what they have achieved. We will be working with the university to make sure job cuts are kept to an absolute minimum and that as the university reviews the future of the school, staff have a central role in this process,” Smith said.
Barker has said he is committed to “work closely with staff in the school as we seek ways to achieve financial viability and a sustainable future.”