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Science Faculty aims to meet student demand

Changes to teaching and research programmes in the Faculty of Science at Victoria University were finalised today.

Science Faculty Dean Peter Englert says the changes are needed to cater for trends in student interest and future growth areas in New Zealand.

“To improve students’ access to education is not easy, even under normal circumstances,” Professor Englert says. “In these hard economic times, it will take a major effort across the Faculty.”

The Science Faculty is facing a deficit of around $5 million. “Our financial commitments have outrun student enrolments in two schools, Chemical & Physical Sciences and Biological Sciences,” Professor Englert says.

“These problems have been well known for some time. For many years, other parts of the University have been subsidising the Science Faculty by several million dollars a year.”

“Given the current financial pressure on the University, these subsidies cannot continue. We must live within our means. Science and technology are not standing still, and we must take steps now to ensure our teaching and research are sustainable in the long term.”

Professor Englert says the University has introduced new courses in areas of high student demand and reviewed its programmes in areas receiving lower enrolments.

“Our over-riding objective is to ensure students have access to talented staff and courses in subjects that they are interested in,” he says. “Our new courses in biomedical science and design have attracted more enrolments than anticipated. Demand is also high for courses in computer science and psychology.”

Professor Englert says the changes in student demand mean new structures are needed for the School of Biological Sciences and School of Chemical and Physical Sciences. The new structures will create a stable, sustainable environment for teaching and research, he says.

“There will be reductions in academic and technical staff numbers in some subject areas and increases in others,” he says. “New positions are proposed in marine biology and pharmacology, with reductions in botany and physiology.”

“Because student enrolments and staff recruitments are growing faster in areas of student interest than they are shrinking in others, over the entire Faculty there is actually a net growth in academic staff numbers, despite the redundancies,” Professor Englert says.

The necessary staff reductions are being met through a variety of processes, including early retirements and voluntary redundancies.

“This has meant that no academic redundancies are required in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences,” Professor Englert says.

Staff reductions are being worked through in ongoing consultation with staff to ensure research programmes and essential support services for teaching are not disrupted. It is anticipated that up to eight academic and up to ten technical positions will have to be disestablished.

Counselling and support services are available for all affected staff.

Victoria University Wellington

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