University-owned company to shed more staff

More staff at a University of Otago-owned company will lose their jobs as the Government's capped tertiary funding environment continues to bite.

There has already been one round of redundancies at Foundation Studies Ltd, which offers English language and general tuition to international and domestic students.

A review of teaching positions in August resulted in the loss of 3.6 positions, company board chairman Ian Simpson said yesterday.

A review of management and support positions was under way.

The Otago Daily Times has been told at least three further positions have been axed, but Mr Simpson said he could not confirm that. The review would be completed before the end of the year, he said.

Staff cuts were a direct result of the Government cap on the number of subsidised places for domestic students, he said.

(Domestic students are New Zealand-born students, permanent residents and a few international students from countries whose governments have reciprocal agreements with ours.)

Foundation Studies has had its domestic student places cut by 44% next year. Because most of the courses at Foundation Studies are not a full year and it takes several students to make up one student place, the reduction will impact on hundreds of students.

The staff cuts were "totally beyond the board's control", Mr Simpson said.

"Clearly, it is most unsettling for staff . . . I have been involved in Foundation Studies for a long time now and it is sad and quite unsettling for me, too."

Many of the subsidised places had been filled by students who had not performed well enough at school to obtain university entrance and needed a one-semester intensive boost to make the grade, he said.

Asked what would happen to them, Mr Simpson said they would "have to make sure they passed UE at school" or wait until they were 20 and apply for a university place as an adult student.

All tertiary institutions, including Otago, have been limiting enrolments, prioritising certain programmes, vigorously cutting costs and laying off staff to ensure the best value for money under the capped funding regime.

Cost-cutting at Otago has so far resulted in almost 40 academic and general positions being shed across five departments.

The job losses at Foundation Studies are not unexpected. In May, Otago released a "management of enrolments policy for 2011 and beyond" which, among other things, indicated its intention to concentrate its resources on degree students and to reduce the number of domestic students within Foundation Studies, although no figures were given.

Foundation Studies Ltd

• Offers five-week intensive bridging courses, foundation studies courses preparing domestic and international students for university study, English language courses with a minimum four-week attendance requirement and Tu Kahika programme preparing Maori students for health sciences study.

• Several hundred students taught this year.

• No limit on international enrolments next year as international students pay full fees.

• Government-funded equivalent full-time student places (efts) to drop from 125 this year to 70 next year, including 25 efts for Tu Kahika students.




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