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Victoria University Faces Tough Times

Students at Victoria University have welcomed the open approach the University Management are taking to deficit reduction, but warn widespread restructuring and cost-cutting could have very negative long-term implications.

Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association President Chris Hipkins said the paper being presented to staff this week painted a very grim picture of the University's financial position and there would be no easy quick-fix solution.

"The fact that we are talking about cutting $12 million from our budget over the next year and a half is real cause for concern. It simply won't be possible to save that amount of money without reducing the depth and quality of education being provided," Mr. Hipkins said.

However, Mr. Hipkins said that debate on the University's financial position could be healthy, and he was pleased staff and students would be provided with maximum opportunity to work with Management to get the University back onto it's feet.

"There are areas where savings could be made that would be welcomed by students. I certainly think there is potential to save a considerable amount of money by reducing spending on central administration and management. There is also potential to save money by looking and re-centralising many of the administrative functions that have been devolved to faculties over the past four years,"

"However, I would be very concerned about any proposals to reduce the number of academic staff or the range of programmes offered. In particular, I would be concerned to see the number of courses taught in Science, Humanities or Social Sciences reduced,"

"We should be aiming to nurture Arts and Science, not destroy them. While it is true that student demand in these areas has decreased in the past few years, there is no evidence to suggest that this trend will continue in the longer term. Instead of slashing and burning I would suggest the University Management look at ways to promote and foster Arts and Science courses," Chris Hipkins said.

Mr. Hipkins said the government also needed to accept some responsibility for the position the University was in. "It's hard to ignore the fact that government funding has fallen considerably over the past decade, and this has certainly had a considerable impact on the ability of New Zealand universities to meet their Charter and legislative obligations,"

"Massive student fee increases to compensate for less government funding have certainly impacted on enrolments, and students from lower socio-economic backgrounds have been particularly disadvantaged,"

Mr. Hipkins said there were two key areas the University needed to concentrate its efforts on: reducing non-academic costs and increase revenue from areas other than student fees. "If the Management want to go down that line, then they will have our support. If they want to slash and burn, they are on their own," Mr. Hipkins concluded.

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