Job cuts proposal shocks college staff

Staff at the University of Otago College of Education fear a cost-cutting restructuring proposal announced yesterday will result in poorer-quality programmes for teacher trainees.

Staff called to a meeting yesterday were "stunned" to hear 23 of the group of about 70 teacher educators are likely to lose their jobs by the end of 2012, Tertiary Education Union southern organiser Kris Smith said last night.

The educators - mostly former teachers with years of classroom experience - are mainly responsible for teaching classroom practice to trainee teachers and supervising work-experience placements in schools and early childhood education centres.

Twelve would go by the end of this year and another four by the end of next year, college dean Helen May said at the meeting.

Four general staff positions would also be lost.

Another seven teacher educator positions would be disestablished by the end of 2012; seven staff with different job descriptions would be employed.

Ms Smith said existing staff could be offered some of the new positions.

The net result would be a loss of between 15 and 20 full-time equivalent positions, acting vice-chancellor Prof Vernon Squire said in a statement.

The college's operations were being subsidised by other parts of the university.

The subsidy was $1.3 million this year.

Restructuring would reduce it next year and eliminate it from 2012.

Restructuring would also ensure a greater proportion of college teaching was delivered by research-active staff, something which was "in accordance with Otago's vision as a research-led university", he said.

Ms Smith said the teacher educators felt the university was favouring research over practice and classroom experience.

They were concerned restructuring would result in less contact time between teacher educators and teacher trainees, less supervision for teacher trainees on work placements, bigger classes and more emphasis on lectures rather than tutorials and small-group work.

Many teacher educators were "distraught" after the meeting, Ms Smith said.

"There is a real fear that people who were employed for their expertise in particular teaching practice areas such as Maori and Pacific Island education ... won't survive this."

Prof Squire has called for submissions on the proposal by June 11.

The university is facing government funding cuts from next year and has set up a taskforce to try to save money.

Six departments employing more than 330 staff are being reviewed.

The college of education is the first department to learn how many jobs might go.

- allison.rudd@odt.co.nz