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University confused, says staff

University confused, says staff

Proposals released today to cut thirteen jobs from the University of Canterbury’s College of Arts shows just how confused management is when it comes to running a university, according to the Association of University Staff (AUS).

In response to the 340 submissions it received on proposed changes to the college, the university has tempered plans to completely axe its American Studies and Theatre and Film Studies programmes and now intends to resubmit to staff for further consultation two different models for a new college structure.

The decision, announced by the pro vice-chancellor for Arts, was that American Studies would be retained, but with the loss of 4.5 staff. It is proposed that the programme be taught by three full-time staff, giving the programme a staff to student ratio of 1 to 45.3, which is fifty percent higher than the highest student to staff ratio in an existing programme in the college.

Meanwhile Theatre and Films Studies will become two separate programmes located in different schools within the college, with the loss of one technical position. Film production will no longer be part of that particular programme of study. The new proposal was never discussed with the Head of Theatre and Film Studies and, according to a number of affected staff and students, makes almost as little sense as the plan to axe the whole programme. This begs the question whether the Vice-Chancellor has fulfilled his contractual obligation to staff which requires that there be an attempt to reach agreement over any planned changes.

Both models for a new college structure involve considerable disruption and uncertainty for the administrative staff. While fewer job losses will be incurred, the implementation of the new structure will not be finalised until the second half of the year. AUS National President, Associate Professor Maureen Montgomery, commented that the proposed changes did not take into account or sufficiently value the specific skills and institutional knowledge that administrative staff have and said that they “cannot simply be moved around a draught board like chequers.”

Associate Professor Montgomery expressed deep concern about the long-term sustainability of the College of Arts, with the proposal to have larger classes, a high staff to student ratio, further savings to be made from staff attrition, and ongoing fiscal constraints to the operational budgets of schools within the college. “This plan does not offer long-term stability to the College of Arts and there needs to be an urgent national debate as to what kind of university we want for New Zealand because at this rate even History will be history,” she said.


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