Jobs cut in design school restructure

DANIELLE STREET
Last updated 05:00 04/12/2013

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The disestablishment of 50 jobs at Unitec is part of the "scourge of casualisation" affecting the country, the Tertiary Education Union says.

A Unitec restructure will see the entire Design and Visual Arts Department made redundant with staff being given the option to apply for 17 new positions.

The education provider says the decision was based on independent research with the creative sector.

The new structure will consist of a smaller core of academic staff with industry professionals brought in to teach within a range of specialist areas.

But Tertiary Education Union national president Lesley Francey says there are concerns about the quality of education offered as a result of the change.

"This is an example of the scourge of casualisation that is spreading across New Zealand," she says.

"Casual employees can come and go as they please and they don't have any dedication to the institution.

"The Unitec Visual Arts department has a huge reputation. It's among the best. So our thoughts are, if it's not broken why fix it? There seems to be no logic to it."

Unitec student president Ben Kevey says students are angry at the lack of consultation "in a decision that will affect qualifications they have already invested considerable time and money into".

"I always felt that Unitec supported the notion that you're in charge of your own education, but this situation shows that that's not the case for these students."

A Unitec spokeswoman says there has been a mixed response from students. Management will work through their concerns.

She says the goal of the restructure is to have students build strong links with people who are active in the industry.

"Programme renewals are common throughout the sector and are done to ensure qualifications are continually being refreshed to reflect changes in the industry.

"Our focus is getting a great job for every graduate whether they want a career as a self-employed artist or a successful practitioner within a business."

The Designers Institute of New Zealand supports the shift.

"Education needs to change to stay relevant to our sector now and in the future," chief executive Cathy Veninga says.

The new operating model is set to be put in to place in the new year.

The union has requested an immediate meeting with Unitec chief executive Rick Ede.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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