Materials Science will close

The University of Otago faces more job losses after its governing council yesterday voted to close the Centre for Materials Science and Technology.

The centre — which taught papers in clothing and textile sciences —  opened in 2016, after the disestablishment of the Department of Applied Sciences.

The 29.4 full-time equivalent students will continue to be taught through until 2019: the centre’s 10.76 full-time equivalent staff face an uncertain future, but at least two have a chance of being redeployed elsewhere in the university.

Just three members of council voted against the proposal, which was passed with little debate.

Craig Marshall, the staff representative on the council, questioned the haste to close the centre, given the university had opened it only last year.Commitments were given to staff and students then which were being revoked, he said.

"Has there been enough time given to achieve the results required under those undertakings?"

Chancellor John Ward said the creation of the centre in 2016 had been a "final opportunity to try to get this thing back on track."

However, the centre still struggled to attract students and its performance compared to budget had been poor.

In a report which effectively sealed the fate of the centre, Pro Vice-chancellor (sciences) Richard Barker wrote it would cost millions to underwrite the centre’s deficit, move it to new quarters, and recruit new staff.

Tertiary Education Union Otago organiser Kris Smith was bitterly disappointed.

"I’m sure that they are looking at every department, but when they make a decision to establish a place, that brings with it a commitment to resourcing, and resources cost," Ms Smith said.

"The fact that those things weren’t delivered on has impacted on their ability to move forward and build the programme."

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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