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May 10, 2010 | by  | in News |
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One down, three to go

Otago gets slash-happy

In the wake of the closure of the Otago University Design Studies Department, Otago’s student magazine Critic can reveal that three other departments are also under review.

The three departments are: the Department of Social Work and Community Development; the Departments of Accountancy and Business Law and Finance and Quantitative Analysis; and the College of Education.

Otago University Vice-Chancellor Professor David Skegg tells Critic that rather than imposing cuts across the whole university, it was decided to confine academic restructuring to four areas which have required significant and continuing cross-subsidies from other departments.

“In some of these areas, the possibility of merging parts of existing departments is under consideration,” Skegg says.

He also says no final decisions have been made.

Skegg’s comments came after negative press in the Otago Daily Times, and Critic receiving a leaked document outlining why the Departments of Accountancy and Business Law and Finance and Quantitative Analysis are in the firing line.

The document makes it clear that any staff without strong research records would face an uncertain future.

The five-page plan calls for “strong and focused leadership and an increased senior research capability”.

The moves have been planned in response to the continued poor performance of both departments in the Performance Based Research Funding rounds.

Finance managed a score of 2.5 in the 2006 round, while Accountancy managed only a 1.2, by far the lowest score in the division. As a result both departments have required large transfers of funds from other departments to make up shortfalls.

Last week the ODT ran an article asserting that morale among university staff was low.

“Naturally this is a very unsettling time for staff in the four areas concerned, and all of us feel sympathy for those affected,” Skegg says.

“I would reject, however, the suggestion in the ODT that staff morale across the whole institution is low. Many of our staff would be very worried if the university were not taking appropriate steps to prepare for the changed financial environment.”

Skegg told Critic that the restructuring was necessitated by financial difficulties, and that “academic priorities should be paramount and that the university must support its areas of greatest strength”.

Skegg is optimistic that after these areas had been looked at, no further restructuring would be necessary in 2010 or 2011, and had assured the University Senate to this effect.

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