Vice-Chancellors need to accept that cutting jobs to meet narrow performance metrics will do nothing to help rebuild an inclusive tertiary education sector that meets the needs of all New Zealanders, the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) said.The TEU is calling on Vice-Chancellors to rethink the way they make decisions so our public universities can better deliver for the benefit of all New Zealanders.The call came after University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Harlene Hayne this week handed letters to 280 staff at the Dunedin campus advising how their job has been impacted by a three year Support Services Review.The review will see vital support services, including student advice and support, removed from individual departments and replaced by more standardised services delivered across the whole institution. Last year Hayne said the plan was to cut 162 full time equivalent jobs.Whereas some staff have been given the option to be confirmed into other roles, the number of voluntary redundancies to date is 118. This will be reached partly by not renewing fixed-term employment agreements, thus highlighting the precarious position universities are knowingly putting staff in when they do not offer permanent work.The people set to lose their jobs are those that provide vital support services that have helped to build the university’s reputation for world class teaching and research. With further cuts expected soon at other universities, the government needs to start asking itself if it can meet the commitments it has made when Vice-Chancellors cut back in areas so vital to teaching and learning.Cutting jobs to meet narrow performance metrics risk diminishing the contribution universities can make to teaching people the knowledge and skills we desperately need.
“First and foremost, when job cuts are announced we look at what the losses mean for the people affected and their families, and we do everything we can as a union to support them. There will be some difficult conversations happening around dinner tables in Dunedin this week and I hope these people will come to us with any questions or concerns,” Sandra Grey, national president of the TEU, said.
But Professor Hayne’s decision to axe such a large number of jobs also points to a need for Vice-Chancellors to stop making decisions based on the narrow market metrics of the last National Government.
“They need to accept that the playing field has changed, so let’s starting working together as a sector to make sure our public institutions are providing a genuine foundation for the future,” Grey said.
Shaun Scott, organiser of the Tertiary Education Union branch at the University of Otago, added: “Throughout this review we have made clear that the changes university management was seeking to make would have a negative impact on the quality of service required to deliver high quality teaching and learning; research and student support. It is regrettable to find ourselves here but the TEU will do everything it can to support the people affected. Even those who have been reconfirmed into new roles face the uncertainty of what their new job will entail, and where in the university they will be working.”