Uni silent as School of Computing raises job concerns

The University of Otago will not say whether people could lose their jobs as part of the departmental merger which has created the School of Computing.


The school was established on August 1, merging the former departments of computer science (sciences) and information science (commerce).

Pro-vice-chancellor for sciences Prof Richard Barker said the new school "will deliver an academic programme that builds on the competitive strengths of the two former departments across the technical aspects of computer science".

"The division of sciences needs to resource its operations to ensure it maintains the standard of research-led excellence that is a fundamental university aspiration," Prof Barker said.

In a media release, former head of departments, Associate Profs Grant Dick (information science) and Steven Mills (computer science) said they agreed that individually their former departments have been "increasing collaboration in research, teaching, and outreach activities over recent years".

"Bringing these two groups together will provide critical mass and provide a clear focus for computing at Otago," Associate Prof Mills said.

"As a unified school we can provide a single destination for students, collaborators, and industry partners who are interested in computing at Otago."

Prof Barker said as part of the merger process, it had started a review of staffing levels.

"It is too soon to comment on how many staff may be affected, or what cost savings there may be."

Prof Barker said the review did not recommend changes to present academic programmes, nor would it affect current students.

"I am aware any review is difficult for staff and they will be supported through the process," he said.

A Tertiary Education Union spokesman said while there could be benefits from bringing departments together, there was concern among staff that this co-operation could be undone by management of change processes leading to staff being cut.

"The staff need to have the ability to make the most out of the co-operation," he said.

"Our members questioned the rationale for the management of change, and were concerned it could lead to students being turned away."

The university is looking to make savings to its budget, and is going through a variety of "management of change" proposals.

Earlier this year, 107 university staff accepted voluntary redundancies.