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COST CUTS STILL OF CONCERN AT VICTORIA

AUS WEB SITE
Staff at Victoria University have reacted with cautious optimism to the release by University management of the Deficit Reduction Consultation Document.

"It is clear the University has attempted to address some of the underlying internal problems that led to this year's unsustainable deficit and has not just equated the deficit figure to a number of jobs that need to be shed, which is encouraging," said Association of University Staff branch spokesperson, Guy Reynolds.

"The proposed management structure is clearer than the existing one and better reflects the way the University operates. Nevertheless, there is still a serious danger that line management will overwhelm the essential collegial nature of the university.

"The success of the structure will depend considerably on the abilities and insight of senior managers and senior academics," said Mr Reynolds. "It will be essential to strengthen the role of the Academic Board in ensuring that the Vice-Chancellor and Council have sound academic advice on policies and practices at Victoria.

"There is also a real possibility that in the next stage of the process – the requirement that the academic units of the university reduce costs by $4M will fatally undermine our ability to offer some programmes and downgrade the quality of many others.

"What remains largely unknown is how these cuts to costs will be apportioned amongst academic schools. The University’s intention seems to be that courses must be profitable, which places an enormous burden on subject areas such as science and modern languages. This aspect of the funding system and its implementation at Victoria must be the subject of further debate,” said Mr Reynolds.

"In general the document signals a significant shift in the nature of tertiary education at VUW. Perhaps the word 'uncertainty' is useful to summarise this shift. From here on, a notional line of 'profitability' will always be in sight for academics. Fall below that line and one's academic position and discipline are significantly at risk of deletion from the VUW community. Just what this means in terms of the type and quality of knowledge that VUW will support remains to be seen.

"While this document represents Victoria University's attempts to address current financial realities, it cannot address the rapidly approaching crisis in the sector brought about by chronic underfunding of universities in New Zealand," said Mr Reynolds.

"As in the health sector, academic pay rates are becoming hopelessly uncompetitive in the international market and our best teachers and researchers will continue, and in increasing numbers, to head overseas. Students are having to pay more for less, as staff to student ratios decline ever further and the technology gap between New Zealand and the first world continues to widen," he said.

Guy Reynolds
AUS (Victoria Branch) spokesperson
(04) 463 5690
guy.reynolds@vuw.ac.nz

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