Warning issued due to underfunding as major university implements significant job cuts

Calls for urgent government funding overhaul as major job cuts hit two New Zealand universities, prompting unity among vice-chancellors, staff, and students.

Sharp drop in enrolments exposes inadequate government subsidies, warn university stakeholders as job cuts threaten long-term teaching and research capacity in New Zealand.

Following multi-million-dollar deficits and the need to cut hundreds of jobs, University of Otago and Victoria University of Wellington sound the alarm on underfunding in New Zealand’s education sector.

The deficits at University of Otago and Victoria University of Wellington are attributed to significant declines in domestic enrolments, while international enrolments are still recovering from the pandemic-induced border closures.

While major job cuts are planned at Otago and Victoria universities, six out of eight universities in New Zealand have experienced a decline in enrolments since the start of the academic year in March.

Furthermore, university annual reports reveal that the sector was already facing challenges in the previous year, as five institutions reported deficits in 2022 and a sixth is anticipated to join them when its report is presented in July.

This week, the students’ associations of Victoria and Otago, along with branches of the Tertiary Education Union, initiated a petition urging the government to take action.

“In order to prevent these staff reductions and ensure a stable funding model for tertiary education in the future, it is crucial that immediate and decisive action is taken,” they emphasized in the petition.

The plea made by the associations and unions urged the government to grant Otago and Victoria universities increased borrowing capacity for immediate financial relief, allocate additional funding to prevent long-term job losses, and initiate a comprehensive review of the current university funding framework.

The organizations highlighted that the government holds significant control over 80% of university funding through direct subsidies, research funding, and regulations on annual student fee increases.

They expressed concern over the alarming decline of 20% in real terms in direct government funding over the past decade.

They further emphasized that the government had accumulated approximately NZD350 million (US$218 million) in savings from lower-than-expected enrolments, suggesting that these funds could be reinvested to support the universities during this challenging period.

Amid chronic underfunding, Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Nic Smith and Otago’s acting Vice-Chancellor Helen Nicholson expressed their support for the petition through an open letter.

In their open letter, Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Nic Smith and Otago’s acting Vice-Chancellor Helen Nicholson emphasized the need for urgent action to address the significant financial challenges and chronic underfunding that pose a threat to the stability of New Zealand universities.

“It is important to recognize that this issue goes beyond the budgetary responsibility or management of universities. True autonomy can only be achieved when institutions have the necessary resources to invest in their priorities, which is currently lacking in our universities.”

Within a week, the petition garnered thousands of signatures, including that of former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.

In an “extraordinary situation,” according to Tertiary Education Union President Julie Douglas, New Zealand’s universities are facing trouble due to long-term government underfunding, and they require immediate support in the short term.

“We are currently facing an extraordinary situation, and it is evident from the universities’ annual reports that there is a problem in the university sector,” stated Julie Douglas, President of the Tertiary Education Union.

“We are facing the current problem due to long-term, systemic, and chronic underfunding. If we do not take action now, the situation will not resolve itself. We need proactive intervention,” emphasized Julie Douglas, President of the Tertiary Education Union.



Source : universityworldnews.com

By Ryan

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