Te Hautū Kahurangi | Tertiary Education Union (TEU) says that for the good of Aotearoa, vice-chancellors must think about long-term stability, opportunities for learners, and staff well-being.

RNZ reports that the loss of foreign student fees has prompted the eight universities to shed about 700 permanent staff, and cut back on hundreds of casual and short-term tutoring and contract lecturing roles.

However, it has now been confirmed that three institutions – Victoria, Canterbury, and Otago – have increased domestic enrolments. And its likely other universities will be in a similar position.

TEU National President, Tina Smith, says all along we have asked vice-chancellors to think strategically and long-term, rather than panicking over short-term cash flow issues caused by the border closures.

“We’re over them needlessly offering staff big sums of money to leave voluntarily. Every job that goes is a job cut and lost opportunity for students. Staff left behind are overwhelmed by unsustainable workloads and this is showing up in world rankings and student well-being.”

Victoria University TEU Co-Branch President Dougal McNeill has also publicly raised concerns about the unsustainable staff workloads, and wanted the government to urgently review university funding models.

TEU Under 35 representative Zoë Port is concerned particularly over the loss of casual and short-term tutoring roles – which will have flow-on effects not only for the students taught by these tutors, but also the postgraduate students who often depend on these roles for income and the other teaching staff whose workloads will increase as a result of these losses.

“Many large university courses rely on the work of casual tutors who give their everything to these intense, crucial roles, but are quick to be dismissed.”

She says, “These roles are also often the first step for those wanting to pursue academic careers. In losing their roles, these tutors aren’t just losing an immediate income – the door to their future career is closing in their face.”

Domestic student numbers are rising. No reasonable employer can expect to deliver to higher numbers of domestic students with fewer and fewer staff.

It is also time for the Minister of Education to come to the party and fill the gap between the funding given for domestic students and that for international students. We have rising domestic student numbers but less money – that’s the reality. Institutions and the government must make sure that staff and students do not continue to wear the cost of this mismatch.