About 150 Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington students and academics rallied at the university’s Kelburn campus on Friday to protest against proposed cuts to staff numbers and programmes.
The rally was organised by Student Against Cuts, a coalition formed by the Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA) and the university branches of Labour and the Green Party.
Between 230 and 260 jobs, including academic and professional staff roles, could go at the university address a $33 million deficit, said vice-chancellor Nic Smithâ€‹ last week. Sixty programmes, mostly from arts and humanities, are also under review.
VUWSA’s president Jessica Yeâ€‹ told the rally the proposed job cuts would result in the erosion of the quality of the university’s teaching, research and students services.
Ye also called on the Government to step in to resolve the situation before the cuts became irreversible and said a new funding model was needed for universities.
“Governments have stood up and upheld a business-orientated funding model for universities,” she said. “We need a sustainable funding model, otherwise these crises will happen again. Universities are not businesses, their purpose is not to make profit – treating them as such will guarantee their failure.”
Barnaby Elderâ€‹, a third-year arts student, was at the rally. His majors in Classics and Latin are being reviewed by the university.
It was a “shame” that the Classics courses were under review, Elder said, because Victoria University had a reputation for turning out world-class classists.
“I had a great classics teacher [in high school] who also studied here, and he told me that the Vic classics course was the best in the country,” he said. “It was the right thing for the Government to fund education. Even if there was no obvious way for it to make us money in the short term, we knew that was an investment in our future.”
Joshua Jefferyâ€‹ who is studying for a Masters in Japanese was also at the rally, holding up a sign written in Japanese. All language courses were put under review except te reo MÄori.
“I wasn’t surprised languages was going to be the first one to get reviewed but it’s kind of hypocritical because this is meant to be an international university,” he said. “Seeing that gone would be devastating – it’s stealing opportunities away from future students to develop a passion for something they didn’t know they had until these courses.”
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