74 people have taken voluntary redundancy, following proposed staff cuts and financial struggles at Victoria University of Wellington.
The university has forecast a $33m financial deficit for the year alone, which is being partially patched up by a $12m government fund towards it over the next two years.
Before the fund was announced, it identified 275 roles ‘in scope for redundancy,’ with plans to add 46 new ones.
74 people chose to leave, in the month-long voluntary redundancy period.
The university says this achieves “around one third of our cost-savings target”.
Vice chancellor Nic Smith says these are spread out across the university, within professional staffing and academic numbers.
It previously put 59 university courses under review, due to a lack of financial sustainability and declining student enrolments. Some were due to be discontinued, such as Italian, German, Greek, Latin, and secondary school teaching.
It also planned to integrate theatre and music performance courses within other programmes.
A number of the courses previously on the chopping block will now be put on a “managed pathway to achieve sustainability”, the university said in a statement to media.
These include Midwifery, Workplace Health and Safety, Secondary Teaching, Earth Sciences, Physics, History, and the English Language Institute.
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Smith told NZME these faculties have “all developed plans on how they can evolve and innovate”.
After the fund was announced, which went towards a number of cash-strapped institutions, Smith told Newstalk ZB the extra cash would “certainly help”. He said they’d look at saving as many jobs and courses as possible.
The institution is ‘on track’ to achieve $10 million of savings, by cutting operational costs and receiving retirements and resignations.
With the government top-up and redundancy numbers now released, the University will undergo further consultation on financial decisions.
Job cuts aren’t off the table completely, despite the voluntary redundancy numbers.
Smith said a new focus “proposes a number of redundancies in areas across the whole university.” The proposal for cuts is ‘significantly smaller’ than previously stated, due to the Government’s top-up, and people choosing to walk off the job.
The university says “the additional funding could be used to save a small but important number of jobs and programmes”, meaning final decisions will now be announced in late September.
Smith hopes a review of the tertiary sector allows a discussion around the funding model, which has previously been dubbed ‘unsustainable’ by the Tertiary Education Union.
The union has also been involved in significant pushback on the proposed job cuts, spearheading a number of protests and campaigns.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson appeared on the Mike Hosking breakfast after the tertiary education cash splash, acknowledging operational action was still needed by individual institutions.
“They need to ensure funding is sustainable with international students as part of the mix, but not the main focus,” Robertson said.
At the time, Education Minister Jan Tinetti called it the “most significant funding increase in 20 years” to the tertiary sector.
A spokesperson says the University is conscious of the uncertainty this process is creating for staff and students. It has committed to ensuring all students currently enrolled will be able to complete their full course of study.
Azaria Howell is a Wellington-based multimedia reporter with an eye across the region. She joined NZME in 2022 after multiple years as a student journalist. She has a keen interest in city council decisions, social housing, and transport.
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