Canterbury Uni Staff “Quaking with Fear”

The University of Canterbury is set to cut staff numbers by 150 over the next three years in an attempt to prevent its debt, which is currently at $50 million, from spiralling out of control.

Canterbury is in dire financial straits as the true financial toll of the earthquake becomes apparent. The University’s 10-year financial forecast predicts that debt will reach $118 million by 2021. They will lose $38 million this year, and will not return to surplus until 2017.

The heavy losses were partially caused by the fact that student enrolment at the University dropped 25% from 2010 to 2011. While the decline in 2012 was only 2%, it will be some time before the University returns to its pre-earthquake enrolment levels.

Canterbury Vice-Chancellor Rod Carr suggested that the reduction in staff numbers would be achieved through a combination of retirements, cutting casual and fixed-term staff, and leaving some vacant positions unfilled. Staff numbers are expected to be reduced by 50 per year over the next three years.

Tertiary Education Union branch co-president at Otago University Dr Brent Lovelock told Critic that it was “inappropriate” for him to comment at this stage, given that there were “150 staff with their heads on the chopping block”. However, he hopes “that all the staff work to persuade the University that it’s a crazy idea. It’s the last thing Canterbury as a region needs.”

TEU national president Sandra Grey also criticised the University’s decision, saying: “Piling more and more work onto fewer people is not sustainable, and will not lead to the quality education Cantabrians deserve, no matter how hard staff work.”

Lovelock agreed, arguing that “redundancies is the last option they should be looking at”. He suggested that as an alternative way of reducing debt, “senior management could take a salary cut”.
This article first appeared in Issue 19, 2012.
Posted 4:49pm Sunday 5th August 2012 by Callum Fredric.