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Warning of further redundancies

Association of University Staff

30 October 2006

Warning of further redundancies at University of Auckland

There could be further redundancies among academic staff at the University of Auckland if the School of Biological Sciences' risky venture to build a new biotech centre falls below budget targets. Members of the Association of University Staff (AUS) at the school are watching what is happening in the Business, Education and Arts Faculties and are worried that they could lose their jobs.

The Dean of Science has said that the possibility of redundancies among academic staff cannot be ruled out in the event that plans to make money from partnerships with pharmaceutical and agribusiness concerns fail.

The University's Budget Committee meets on Tuesday to approve building the multi-million dollar Institute for Innovation in Biotechnology that will be attached to the School of Biological Sciences.

“The University is using completely the wrong model for partnership with biotechnology business interests,” said Associate-Professor Peter Wills, AUS Auckland Branch spokesperson. “There should be an absolute firewall between the academic and business sides of operations such as this. Instead, they talk of a seamless connection with biotechnology companies, they distort the balance of academic programmes and then they raise the possibility of redundancies among academic staff. We are all sympathetic to the University’s need to develop new sources of revenue, but academic autonomy and integrity cannot be put at risk.”

“The plan to graft a large business enterprise onto the School of Biological Sciences was not discussed by the school's external Advisory Board. Everything is secret, supposedly on the grounds of commercial sensitivity, but the conflict of interest issues are enormous.

Academic staff do not get to look properly into the plan unless they sign up for it even though Vote Education funds are being diverted away from their fields,” said Associate Professor Wills. “Overseas visitors look in amazement at the failure of the University to protect academic interests as it pursues money making. What is being done here would simply not be allowed in countries such as the United States.”

Associate-Professor Wills said the plans should be put on hold until the University could guarantee the integrity of academic programmes and security of tenure for academic staff.


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