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Humanities staff at the University of Otago fear that a major review may axe academic positions.
The review was announced by Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Humanities, Professor Tony Ballantyne, last month, and aims to evaluate the undergraduate and postgraduate academic programmes. This will reportedly support the Division of Humanities (DoH) to “better meet the changing demands and needs of students.”
Otago’s DoH has seen their student intake fall by 4.6% in 2016, reflecting a trend of decreasing enrolment numbers since 2010. This equates to 267 fewer students enrolled than last year.
According to the Otago Daily Times (ODT), the DoH has suffered a 14% decline in student enrollment since 2010.
A staff member of the DoH, who did not want to be named, was fearful that respected academic staff would lose their positions with the university due to funding cuts, and the stress of the review has caused morale to drop.
“Once voluntary redundancies have been called for, the intention is to evaluate staff-student ratios in humanities departments to determine where cuts could be made.”
Professor Tony Ballantyne said he was unable to comment on which departments were at risk within the DoH. He stressed it would be “business as usual” for most students, but appreciates that the changes will be “unsettling.” Ballantyne added that the university “will strive to be fair and consultative with staff.”
It is claimed that departments with steady student engagement and solid financial viability will not be affected, but rather the departments that have suffered from low enrolment will likely be targeted.
Within the DoH there are 16 academic divisions and 450 staff members collectively.
The past five years have seen an increasing number of students enrolling in the Division of Health Sciences (DoHS) at Otago University, which surpassed the DoH as the largest division in terms of student numbers in 2012.
Students enrolled within the DoHS attract more government funding for the university, but they declined to respond when asked by ODT how this difference affected the changing student interest.
Professor Ballantyne took over the position of Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the DoH in October of last year.