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Reassessment of Arts Cuts at Canterbury Needed

4 April 2006

“Immediate Suspension and Complete Reassessment of Arts Cuts at Canterbury Needed After Today’s Government Tertiary Education Announcement”

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Staff at the University of Canterbury are welcoming today’s policy announcement by the Minister of Tertiary Education, and are claiming that it shows the need for an immediate suspension and complete reassessment of the University’s plans to make further cuts in the Arts.

“At the very time the government is announcing a move away from what it calls ‘the current, overly simplistic, Student Component funding system’, the University is axing staff based entirely on that measure,” said Association of University Staff (AUS) Canterbury President, David Small.

Dr Small said that there is widespread support among staff for Dr Cullen’s view that universities are more effective in their basic mission of serving the public when they organise their research and teaching around a plan that is responsive to the economic and social needs of their community and the country, and that is developed in consultation with the university’s diverse stakeholders.

He said that the university’s plan to cut eight positions in Arts was being implemented without any consideration of factors that the Minister identified as essential for a university, such as fostering “critical thinking and innovation”, acting as “the conscience and critic of society”, and supporting “the flexibility and innovation that comes with independence of thought”.

Dr Small said that Dr Cullen’s statement reinforces AUS’s argument that it is simply unacceptable for a New Zealand university today to be using such a blunt financial instrument to make cuts with profound academic, social and economic costs, and to remain completely unmoved by such widespread opposition from within the university and the wider community.

Last year, the University of Canterbury recorded a financial surplus of $9.2 million, up 50% on the previous year, $2.5 million ahead of budget, and at the upper end of government guidelines on appropriate levels of surplus for a university.

Despite this, it is continuing with plans to cut $2million from the Arts, a move that it claims requires forced redundancies among academic staff. The programmes targetted are Russian, Islamic Studies, Asian History, Education, American Studies, English, Chinese, and Music.

The cuts are being made in the absence of an academic plan and in the face of a unanimous vote of condemnation from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. The university released a change proposal on 20 March with submissions closing on 20 April.

ENDS

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