4 Sep 2018

Unitec cuts at least 100 jobs as courses dropped

12:18 pm on 4 September 2018

There will be at least 100 job losses at Auckland's Unitec as it suspends 19 courses in full, and three others in part.

Unitec Campus in Mt Albert

Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Unitec has informed staff that the courses will be suspended from 2019 and for the foreseeable future.

It will not enrol any new students, but says students currently enrolled will be able to complete their qualifications.

Unitec has been in financial strife for some time, and has lost 600 full-time students in recent years.

The courses that are being suspended include Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor Communication, Doctor of Computing, Bachelor of Sport and Master of Osteopathy.

Unitec had 130 programmes when there were 10,000 students but with dropping student numbers, Interim chief executive Merran Davis told Checkpoint it needed to reduce costs by 20 percent.

"Because we haven't been proactive around managing that portfolio with the changing times, it has meant we are now in a situation where the review and making that change is a lot more significant than it would be in the usual course of things," Ms Davis said.

Unitec decided on which courses to drop after looking at financial reliability, strategic relevance and educational performance, she said.

The action will result in about 100 to 200 full time-equivalent positions, Ms Davis said.

Ms Davis also confirmed the $50 million government loan to bail out Unitec would be used in part to pay for redundancies - and the government was aware of the changes and job losses when it confirmed it would lend the money.

The government loan would also help it become financially stable, Ms Davis said.

"The government is lending us money so we can actually get ourselves into a position where we are actually able to continue paying staff, and also so that we can return to a financially sustainable position on the basis that we have had declining students for the last few years," she said.

"Unless we make significant changes, our operating model is not sustainable in its current form, because it was actually designed for a lot more students than Unitec has currently and is expected to have for some time."

Unitec was in the process of informing staff about the redundancies, and deans and heads of pathways had been informed roles would be disestablished.

"Right across the organisation there is an understanding and an expectation that there will be job losses," she said.

When asked if all staff had been informed, Ms Davis said there had been open communication.

"We've talked about relentless communication, we've talked about being transparent and I believe, if you were to talk to our staff on the whole, they would talk about leadership and management taking that approach," she said.

The Tertiary Education Union (TEU) said the process to ditch staff and courses was too rushed.

TEU Unitec branch president Dr Wei Loo told Morning Report a proper disestablishment process must happen.

"Let's do it carefully and in a considered way and I think we need to revisit the process that's happened," he said.

Dr Loo said a lot of the problems at Unitec were linked to the previous management which had done reputational damage to the institute.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the $50m Crown loan was to ensure Unitec could keep its doors open.

"The Independent Financial Advisor at Unitec has advised me that it is expected to enrol about 6900 EFTS in 2018, with further declines expected in 2019. This is significantly less than what Unitec had forecast, and I understand there will need to be a reduction in staffing numbers as a result," Mr Hipkins said.

"The Commissioner, Murray Strong, is currently working through the process to ensure the organisation is sustainable and any implication on staffing is yet to be determined."

Suspended Unitec programmes (no new enrolments from 2019):

  • Bachelor of Arts
  • Bachelor Communication (Language studies)
  • Short courses in International Languages
  • NZ Cert English Language L2
  • NZ Cert English Language L3 - some parts
  • NZ Cert English Language L4 - some parts
  • Bachelor Communication
  • Master International Communication
  • Doctor of Computing
  • Bachelor Performing & Screen Arts - some parts
  • Dip Contemporary Music
  • Master Design
  • Bachelor Applied Science Human Bio (Osteopathy)
  • Bachelor Health Social Development
  • Bachelor of Sport
  • Master of Osteopathy
  • Master Applied Practice (Generic)
  • Master Education
  • Master Educational Leadership & Management
  • Doctor of Philosophy
  • NZ Cert Horticulture Services
  • GDip Event Communication

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