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The University of Otago is considering making "several hundred" academic and general staff redundant as it attempts to reduce its annual budget by $60million.
In an email to students, Acting vice-chancellor Prof Helen Nicholson said due to a number of factors, including falling student numbers and Government funding not keeping up with rising costs, it was making "hard decisions" to ensure the institution was sustainable into the future.
"This includes the possible redundancies of several hundred academic and professional staff positions."
Applications for voluntary redundancies would open next week and more job cuts were likely later in the year.
In a press release, Prof Nicholson said enrolments were down by 0.9% on last year. International students were up by about 495, but domestic students were down by about 670.
"If we do nothing, and even if our enrolments recover more quickly than we expect at our current rate, we will still have a budget in the red for several years. That is not tenable for us as a university," Prof Nicholson said.
"We need to reduce our annual operating budget by about $60million and salary savings will need to be a significant component of this. It is likely that this will result in changes across the entire University."
Otago Tertiary Education Union (TEU) organiser Philip Edwards said through no fault of their own staff were left facing the "pointy end".
"Where’s the resiliency in a large organisation like this, when the only lever they can pull is getting rid of staff? It’s madness," he said.
"It's a terrible day for the university, a terrible day for Dunedin."