Floated cuts a ‘kick in the guts’ for ‘profitable’ school

The University of Otago School of Biomedical Sciences is undergoing a restructure. PHOTO: LINDA...
The University of Otago School of Biomedical Sciences is undergoing a restructure. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Proposed cuts to a "high-performing" University of Otago school are a "kick in the guts", staff say.

School of Biomedical Sciences staff received information about the proposed restructure at a meeting yesterday.

It is understood about 13 full-time-equivalent academic staff roles could be affected.

A staff member, who declined to be named, said the announcement was a "real kick in the guts".

"We have heard whispers about this proposed change for a while.

"Some people have already taken voluntary redundancy.

"Other people are trying to protect their own patches."

This was above the several people who had already accepted voluntary redundancy, the staff member said.

But they said it was not clear how many staff were "in scope" for the restructuring and why the school should be targeted.

"The rationale doesn’t make sense to me.

"The school is one of the most profitable at the university. It props up other departments and makes so much money."

The school includes the departments of anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, microbiology and immunology and pharmacology and toxicology, and has about 320 staff.

Pro vice-chancellor for health sciences Associate Prof Megan Gibbons confirmed the proposed restructure.

"Over the past few years, the school has been working hard to improve its financial situation through reducing costs and increasing income where possible.

"But the present financial challenges mean that additional savings are needed and, therefore, it is necessary for the school to closely review its staffing levels.

"It is important to note that it is a proposal only, and changes may be made as a result of feedback received."

It comes as the university continues to make staff cuts in order to achieve "permanent and lasting savings" as lower-than-expected enrolments have led to higher-than-expected deficits.

Departments affected by last year’s restructuring processes included the school of languages, science communication, peace and conflict studies, geology and the school of computing.

More than 200 university staff lost their jobs in the process.

The staff member said they were first informed about the most recent restructure programme "at the bottom of a newsletter", before receiving an email about the proposal late last week.

"The communication about these proposals has not been great."

Earlier this year, a university spokeswoman said "some areas" of the university would work through "management of change" processes this year and this would "likely result in some redundancies".