Humanities cuts closer at University

Compulsory redundancies may be required in the University of Otago division of humanities, an email from the division's pro-vice-chancellor reveals.

In the email sent to staff last Wednesday, and supplied to the Otago Daily Times, pro-vice-chancellor of humanities Prof Tony Ballantyne said "a number of staff from across the division initiate conversations about their future plans but that pattern has been uneven''.

The university was "working through the staffing and financial implications'' of arrangements that occurred as a result of the conversations, he said.

"I have also requested HoDs (department heads) and Deans to gather more information from within their academic units about the future plans of staff as the Division does require more data to be able to plan our likely staffing profile for the next 5-7 years.''

The response to date was unlikely to "put the Division in a place where it will be able to avoid management of change processes in some departments'', he said.

In June, the university confirmed it had begun a major review of the division, focusing on academic staffing across all 37 humanities departments and centres.

At present, 450 staff are employed in the division. The wide range of the division's subjects includes languages, history, law, music, teaching, theology,  and law.

This year, enrolments in the division fell 4.6% (237 equivalent-fulltime students) on the 4944 efts enrolled in the division last year.

Rolls have been falling since 2011.

A breakdown of enrolment numbers in humanities courses in the past three years has been sought. The University of Otago is yet to respond with figures.

In the email, Prof Ballantyne said he hoped to tell the head of each humanities department next Tuesday how the "management-of-change process'' was likely to affect their department.

Departments would be informed at meetings to be held as soon as possible, Prof Ballantyne said.

Some staff had raised the "question'' of voluntary redundancies, which was an option the university was open to, he said.

Dunedin Tertiary Education Union organiser Shaun Scott confirmed the union had been approached by concerned humanities staff.

"Clearly members in the division are concerned about the review.

"It is a stressful time as they await the next steps.''

A University of Otago spokeswoman declined to answer questions about the email, saying the university planned to release further information to the public after August 3 after "communication'' with humanities staff.

The email came at the same time submissions opened for a review of all postgraduate humanities courses.

That review was not a staffing review, but a "standard academic one'' run by the university's quality advancement unit, the spokeswoman said.

"There are many of these undertaken every year looking into various academic programmes across the university.''

A review document leaked to the ODT said it would evaluate teaching, research and professional practice in the 31 honours, postgraduate diploma and master's qualifications the humanities division offered.

Submissions on the review close on August 29.

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