Jobs at risk in training shakeup

Job losses are expected after the University of Otago decided to suspend two of its teacher training programmes.

An email notifying students of the changes was leaked to the Otago Daily Times yesterday and later confirmed by the Tertiary Education Union and the university.

The courses being cut for next year were a one-year graduate diploma and a four-year bachelor's degree in education studies. The email said the decision was made at the ''university level'' for ''financial reasons''.

The cuts come after chief operating officer John Patrick last week said academic divisions were expected to find savings to make up for $2.114 million of a $4.183 million shortfall caused by a failure to meet forecast student numbers.

When contacted about the possibility these cuts would result in job losses, human resources director Kevin Seales last week said: ''The planned savings mentioned at the council meeting ... were for 2014 only and, at this stage, there are no plans to carry out any restructuring to achieve them.''

TEU organiser Shaun Scott said this appeared inconsistent with what staff in the College of Education were told this week.

''It does cause us a great deal of concern that one week there is a public statement from the university saying one thing and then a week or so later there is communication to staff indicating that some of their jobs may be at threat related to financial reasons.''

A spokesman for the university said Mr Seales was unaware of the plan to suspend the courses when he made last week's statement and the decision was unrelated to the academic divisions being asked to find savings for the 2014 year.

Mr Scott said it was unknown at this stage how many jobs would likely be affected by the change.

The cuts were the latest blow to morale for the college, which had gone through ''constant change'' since merging with the university in 2007''It's hard for them in that environment where you are feeling vulnerable about your employment.''

Humanities pro-vice-chancellor Prof Brian Moloughney said the ''staffing implications'' of suspending the programmes had not yet been worked through.

Enrolments in the graduate diploma had declined from 188 in 2010 to 96 this year and the new Master of Teaching and Learning programme introduced in 2013 was preferred by graduate students.

The four-year bachelor of education studies had ''always attracted very small numbers'' as undergraduates preferred the three-year bachelor of teaching.

''For financial reasons it is not possible to run parallel pathways at both the undergraduate and graduate levels,'' he said.

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz