University Proposes New Wave of Staff Cuts

24 November 2016

Staff in academic and professional departments have been notified of another wave of cuts at the University of Melbourne. These cuts span across multiple University campuses and echo cuts made in late 2014.

Farrago has obtained documents pertaining to the changes to Academic Skills, Careers, Global Mobility and Student Advice, including proposed position descriptions and management hierarchies.

Student Success Change Proposal (Text)

The document outlines a proposal to merge these four units into two: ‘Student Involvement and Academic Success’ and ‘Global Leadership and Employability’. These consolidated units would fall under the overarching ‘Student Success’ division.

The consolidation of these services would see 20 staff members made redundant. Staff who have spoken to Farrago claim that the staff affected would be required to reapply for positions which are offered at a lower remuneration rate.

The document justifies these consolidations following poor student feedback, with only 42 per cent of participants in the 2015 Student Experience Survey finding careers services useful. However, a member of staff who spoke to Farrago noted that these results came from research conducted after a large wave of student services staff redundancies from the Business Improvement Program.

When asked about the restructure, Katherine Beaumont from the Student Success team provided this statement:

“To summarise, we are proposing a change so that we can link more closely with industry, government, community groups; continue to offer ‘basics’ such as CV checking, interview preparation in the career space and workshops and tutorials in the academic skills space but in additive ways that both provide service to students and build the employability of students and peers; enable more systematic use of technology so services are accessible where and when needed (online 24/7) and to create flexibility to respond to changing needs rather than offering the same programs year in, year out.”

Institutions such as the Victorian College of the Arts’ Centre for Cultural Partnerships (CCP) and the Veterinary Hospital in Geelong are set to be closed entirely. The CCP’s notice of closure received immediate backlash from affected students and staff.

“Considering that CCP strongly aligns with the Uni Melb vision for greater community-university engagement we find this lack of actual consultation in the lead up to this decision concerning,” said Tal Fitzpatrick, a PhD student at the CCP.

“We would like the Dean to be more transparent about who exactly he consulted with and when in coming to this decision.”

The #SaveCCP movement has acquired 2,200 signatures on an online petitions and garnered support from political figures and national publications. The University of Melbourne Student Union Students’ Council has also passed a motion in solidarity with the movement.

The CCP has faced structural changes for the multiple years. A large portion of the CCP’s income came from philanthropic funding. This funding has been depleted up with the University expecting research and teaching to cover a significant part of this gap.

Professor Barry Conyngham, Dean of the Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts and the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, has informed Farrago that consultation with students took place over the course teach-out plans and the changes to Research Higher Degree supervision.

At a recent National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) meeting, staff from many affected areas claimed that very little consultation was available. Some claimed they weren’t aware of cuts within their division until notice of the NTEU meeting was distributed. In the Student Success proposal document, the University explains that little consultation with staff was offered when devising the proposal because of the “sensitive nature of these changes”.

NTEU Branch Vice-President Alex McAulay believes that the University is proposing these changes “on the basis of very little knowledge of how things would happen afterwards”.

The University is set to enter negotiations soon over a new Enterprise Agreement (EA) with relevant union bodies, such as the NTEU. The current EA is set to expire halfway through 2017, after which time new negotiated staffing conditions will be implemented. The NTEU have suggested that the University are attempting to rush through these proposals before any new staffing negotiations are set to begin.

The proposed redundancies follow the 2014/15 Business Improvement Program (BIP), in which approximately 500 professional staff were made redundant and student services were merged. The consequences of the BIP are evident in projects like Stop 1 and a decline in other student-facing services.

The proposed Student Success staffing structure is expected to be complete by 12 December with staff notified of their redundancies by 28 November.

Image from the Save CCP Facebook page.

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