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April 6, 2014 | by  | in News |
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Major Change to Minor Paper

Social Policy (SPOL) may be the next humanities subject to face a cut as the University proposes removing it as a major option.

Based on last year’s review of the programme, the University has suggested only offering Social Policy as a minor, citing low numbers and a high content crossover with Sociology.

If the proposal goes through, there will be no new majors in Social Policy from 2015. All existing majors in Social Policy will be able to complete their course of study by including some SPOL courses and courses from Sociology that have been double-labelled.

Currently, Victoria University is the only university in New Zealand offering the programme. The programme is described on the Victoria University website as “the study of how and why social policy gets made and how it works in the real world, focussing on people’s needs or wellbeing.”

Dr Sandra Grey, head of the programme and Senior Lecturer at the School of Social and Cultural Studies, said that the University should not cut the programme. She said Social Policy had been “very well received” by students, but “unfortunately doesn’t have big numbers.”

“The difficulty in this is some people will interpret my saying this as self-interest. It’s not, there will be no job losses.”

“Social policy is the biggest area of government expenditure, bar none. I’ve been teaching this subject for ten years, and I think there’s a real place for it,” said Grey.

VUWSA Academic Vice-President Rāwinia Thompson told Salient that she sees this move as a continuation of a trend begun with Gender Studies and Māori Business, and that such cuts are undermining and reducing the humanities department.

Grey agreed, saying that universities were being strategic around courses “not around learning, but around financial viability”, and that this was a “definite strain on the environment.”

Dr Allison Kirkman, head of the School of Social and Cultural Studies, refuted claims that the humanities department is in decline, saying that enrolments in Sociology and the School’s other courses, Criminology and Anthropology, are on the rise.

Kirkman said that Social Policy has always been difficult to sustain as a major, telling Salient that there is only one full-time staff member and one part-time staff member involved with the programme, but that there are “not sufficient students enrolled in Social Policy courses to warrant more staff.”

When asked by Salient about his views regarding cuts at the University, Grant Guilford, Victoria’s new Vice-Chancellor, said that no staff members were owed a living.

“If you’re a staff member at this university and your courses are in an area that is not attracting any student interest, not attracting any research grants, then you have to ask yourself why this university should continue to support you,” said Guilford.

The final decision regarding the proposal will go before the Academic Board at the meeting on 10 April.

If the proposal gets through University processes, it will then go to the Committee on University Academic Programmes (CUAP). The CUAP is a board which makes the final decision on accrediting or removing University courses.


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