Concerns about future job cuts at Massey

Posted By TEU on Oct 5, 2017 | 6 comments

Tertiary Update – Vol 20 No 29

Massey University Vice-Chancellor, Jan Thomas, has warned that job cuts may be on the horizon in a bid to manage budget cuts.

In a wide ranging interview with Massey University’s student magazine, Massive, Thomas would not rule out job cuts a Massey looks to meet a Tertiary Education Commission requirement that universities maintain a 3 per cent surplus.

Thomas also claimed there was a problem of “chronic under-performance” among Massey academic staff that would likely lead to job losses.

“There will be staff who have been chronic under-performers who we will lose from the university because I want to be able to spend the dollars I have as wisely as I can,” Thomas said.

Sandra Grey, national president of the TEU, is seeking a meeting with Thomas to discuss the statements.

“We understand that Professor Thomas wants to meet targets around performance. However, discussing staff performance publicly can compromise well-being and is actually likely to undermine productivity,” Grey said.

The TEU will be seeking assurances from Professor Thomas that she is not planning to implement narrow performance metrics. Rigid performance indicators risk pushing institutional leaders to abandon the core mission of teaching and learning.

“What motivates staff is giving them purpose, freedom and greater autonomy in what they do. Professor Thomas would be wise to read the evidence that confirms this when she is making changes to the way staff work at Massey” Grey added.

University management is currently trying to hold down staff pay below the rate of inflation, in response to the union’s efforts to negotiate collectively for well paid jobs.

Management has also said it will abandon nine years of hard work on a general staff pay model that would improve transparency and equity in staff pay.

Prior to Thomas’ appointment, the role of vice-chancellor benefited from a pay hike of $50,000, one of the largest pay increases enjoyed by any vice-chancellor or chief executive across the sector.

The TEU is planning an action next Tuesday to talk to students at the university’s Wellington, Manawatū and Albany campuses about management’s latest pay offer.

“I am sure students will be interested to hear about what management is proposing, particularly after reading about what the VC has to say about staff,” Grey said.

This article was amended on 6 October after Massive notified the TEU it had wrongly attributed a quote to the Vice-Chancellor.

The TEU was pleased to hear that it was in fact an anonymous staff member that said academic staff should ‘go find a polytech.’T he TEU remains concerned, however, with Professor Thomas’ comments about staff  performance and is seeking a meeting to discuss her intended approach to managing productivity at Massey University.

Massive has updated its online version of the interview with Professor Thomas here.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Teachers matter to us all
  2. World Teachers’ Day an opportunity to discuss our future

Other news

The New Zealand Education Institute has gathered for its annual conference this week and discussed campaigns on pay equity and supporting a better public education system – NZEI

Members of the New Zealand Post Primary Teachers’ Association have been discussing the negative affect on children of growing teacher shortages at their annual conference this week – PPTA

The Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki has signed an agreement with the Open Polytechnic to adopt iQualify, a digital education platform – WITT

The Universal College of Learning recently hosted the Shandong Foreign Trade Vocational College, a government funded polytechnic in eastern China – UCOL

University of Canterbury Vice-Chancellor Dr. Rod Carr has announced that he will not be seeking reappointment when his current contract ends on 1 February 2019 – Stuff

Victoria University of Wellington has opened the Wellington-Changsha Innovation Technology Transfer Centre, which will focus on developing partnerships to produce biotechnology and medical products – VUW

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment is now calling for proposals for the 2018 Endeavour Fund – MBIE

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  1. It’s often less about a lack of passion for (‘suitable’) research, and more about the challenge of converting that passion into (PBRF) performance when resources (equipment, $$$, time, post-graduate students, etc.) are lacking. Professor Thomas’ talk of passion and (chronic under-)performance sounds a little tired.

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  2. I suspect different universities have different arrangements for the allocation of teaching/ supervision, programme leadership and research. In my experience research activity is often sidelined in order to manage other responsibilities, especially if not supported by external funding- which, depending on one’s discipline, is not always easy to obtain. A ‘one size fits all’ approach to managing academics’ (PBRF) performance, as suggested by Professor Thomas’ comments, fails to take context into account.

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  3. “Professor Thomas has a PhD in Veterinary Science from Murdoch University and is a Fellow of the Australian Institute for Company Directors. She has received numerous awards for her leadership in education.” So reads her profile.

    Maybe Jan Thomas should read up on Hegel’s Master-Slave dialectic. With these words Jan Thomas has started down a path which leads to seriality and internal conflict.
    Alas it seems
    ” . . . because I want to be able to spend the dollars I have as wisely as I can,” Thomas said.

    Does this suggest that Professor Thomas knows what’s best for Massey University?

    So much for the four-C’s being recommended.

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  4. Just…Wow. Way to be in touch with your staff, who are (generally) considered your greatest asset.

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  5. The new trend of VCs do not care about passion for research. They are like CEOs – want to maximise their numbers, and in this case their PBRF metrics. They encourage publishing low quality work. The time I take to talk to my students is a wasted time in CEOs’ view because it doesn’t turn into publications and doesn’t show up in my teaching surveys. This has turned into a very bad game. The management does not allow you to uphold your standards because they want more “productivity” (read PBRF and money).

    I never imagined the academia would look like this. I am disgusted with how much money and human time we are wasting on this PBRF exercise. We’ve had workshops on how to write our PBRF portfolios and spent hours to audit them. We are miles away from what universities were meant for.

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  6. As if staff morale wasn’t low already…then comes this article in Massive (student) Magazine. I doubt many students will take the time to read it, but every staff member on our three campuses already has. Ouch.

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What are your thoughts?