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The University of Otago is proposing to scrap its sole-charge art history department due to a lack of students taking papers.
Pro-vice chancellor of humanities Prof Tony Ballantyne said there was a drop of more than 75% since 2014, leaving the programme with 18.7 equivalent full-time students (EFTS). The proposal comes two years after an announcement 16 jobs would be cut in the university’s’s humanities division, but Prof Ballantyne said these changes were "in addition" to that review. Informal "conversations" had been ongoing for about two years, and the university would be formally consulting the Tertiary Education Union and affected parties until September 4.
Student magazine Critic Te Arohi claimed student reporters and postgraduate association representatives were denied entry to a forum on the future of the programme on Wednesday.
Prof Ballantyne said someone saying she was attending at Critic’s request, and someone else who was a postgraduate student in a different programme, were not allowed in, because the discussion was only for art history students.
"There was formal [Otago University Students’ Association] representation in the meeting as an invitation was extended to the OUSA education officer, and they were present throughout the meeting."
Former art history lecturer Erika Wolf took to Facebook to question the university’s decision, saying the "writing was on the wall" for some time.
"Retirements and departures of staff already made the programme offerings impossible and not very attractive with only two staff. They are hoping that it will shrivel up and be swept away, unnoticed."
The remaining art history academic staff member declined to speak to the Otago Daily Times.
TEU Dunedin organiser Shaun Scott said the Government’s focus on STEM subjects was having an impact on humanities subjects. Institutions still valued them, but were constrained by funding.
Prof Ballantyne said submissions from affected parties would be reviewed and then decisions had to go to the university senate and council. Earlier this week, the TEU slammed the University of Auckland’s proposal to cut 5.5 equivalent full-time jobs from its School of Cultures, Languages and Linguistics.