Uni extends timeframe for support services review, updates staff

An update on a wide-ranging University of Otago support services review has been greeted cautiously by the Tertiary Education Union.

The union says the review, which began last year, has sparked "huge concern'' among the university's more than 2000 general staff.

Dunedin TEU organiser Shaun Scott said many staff were still anxious about their jobs, but yesterday's update had been constructive and "worthwhile''.

In presenting the update yesterday, university vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne said change could "sometimes be unsettling''.

Addressing about 500 staff on campus yesterday, Prof Hayne thanked them for playing a part in "an extremely important exercise'' for the university.

About 100 other university general staff in Invercargill, Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland, and others in Dunedin, are believed to have watched the talk, which was livestreamed via the internet.

This was the first time in more than 15 years that the university had undertaken such a comprehensive review of how it performed vital tasks that supported university teaching.

Prof Hayne said the university had recognised "the size of the review task'' and had extended the date for completing the review's second phase until May next year.

At that stage, business cases would be provided to the review steering group for consideration.

The update briefing also noted that some key functions the review was focusing on were finance, including advice to heads of department; information technology, including multimedia production; human resources, including staff recruitment and training; administration; and possible development "of an enhanced helpdesk function and intranet'' to support the above services.

Mr Scott said extending the review's timeframe meant some people would face uncertainty for longer, but it was positive that more time was being taken in an effort to get things "right''.

The TEU still hoped any eventual staff losses would be managed voluntarily, rather than through forced redundancies, he said.

Asked why the timeframe had been extended, Prof Hayne said the review dates had changed "as a result of the desire to take as long as it takes to get this right''.

And the review was "not about our staff, who are of a very high calibre'' but about "our functions and our systems, and creating better ones that will hold us all in good stead for what promises to be a very competitive future ahead''.

Prof Hayne said there were "no set targets'' for staffing changes and she was encouraging staff to "remain involved in the process''.

The university was also considering providing new services, such as a university intranet, as well as reviewing the current ones.

john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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