University staffing study not about 'cutting'

The University of Otago says there is no ''hidden agenda'' behind a project comparing its staffing levels with those of other universities.

The university has been running the general staff benchmarking project, called UniForum, since 2012 and according to its website is now collating the results of a ''staff activity'' survey carried out last year.

This comes as academic departments have been asked to tighten their belts as the university faces a funding shortfall.

Planning and funding director David Thomson said the project was not about looking for areas to make cuts.

''We briefed staff very openly about UniForum when we commenced our involvement with it, in part so it was clear there was not some hidden agenda behind the exercise. We are not engaged in this exercise with an agenda around cutting if times get tough.''

Rather, the project gave the university the chance - ''for the first time'' - to compare the ''effectiveness and efficiency'' of its support services with those of universities in New Zealand and Australia.

''It has given us some insights that may prove helpful as our support services evolve, as they constantly do, to meet the changing needs of our academic staff and student community.''

The project had shown the university how it differed from other universities, including having more student support staff due to it being a residential university.

Tertiary Education Union organiser Shaun Scott said the union was initially concerned the project could be part of plans to cut jobs, but had been assured otherwise by the university.

''We did have nervousness at the time ... but, in all honesty, it hasn't happened, which has been a pleasant surprise,'' he said.

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz