Uni says major job cuts unlikely

The University of Otago is not anticipating another major round of job cuts this year as it reveals more than 200 staff were made redundant last year.

Figures provided to the Otago Daily Times showed there were 115.6 fulltime equivalent (FTE) voluntary redundancies, for a headcount of 151 staff, and 41.8 FTE compulsory redundancies for a headcount of 65 staff.

The university was unable to give a breakdown of staff cuts by department, or by division of academic and professional staff.

A university spokeswoman said "some areas" of the university would work through "management of change" processes this year and this would "likely result in some redundancies".

"But at this stage we do not anticipate the need for a further general round of redundancies," she said.

Asked about which departments could be affected this year, she said the university "would not be making these public until we have discussed with staff".

Tertiary Education Union co-president Craig Marshall said the past year had been "fraught" for staff.

"Most staff had considerable anxiety about whether they would still have their jobs.

"There is slightly less anxiety this year, but I don’t think that anxiety has gone."

The university needed to make improvements not only in finances, but also in its recognition of staff, better administrative structures, being more open to new ways of teaching and better engagement around the university, he said.

"I’m hopeful management will listen. I would like to be optimistic.

"But we’re all waiting for the final student numbers. That would be an important first indication as to where we are at."

Recently, Otago University has been plagued by financial difficulties.

It plans to end this year with a $28.9 million deficit, predicated on achieving savings of nearly $35m within the year, from asset sales and a savings target.

It has also budgeted to be $203m in debt by year-end.

The university was unable to provide the present full staff numbers, but the 2022 annual report said it had 4097 FTEs, of whom 1631 were classed as "academic" and 2466 were classed as "professional".

Departments affected by last year’s restructuring processes included the School of Languages, science communication, peace and conflict studies, geology and the School of Computing.

The Tertiary Education Commission recently identified the university as being of "medium" financial risk in a briefing to the government.