Lincoln University to slash courses

TINA LAW
Last updated 05:00 12/02/2013

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Job cuts are likely as Lincoln University looks to cut between 50 and 100 courses to sharpen its focus on land-based qualifications.

The university, New Zealand's smallest, offers about 320 undergraduate qualifications across a broad range of subjects.

But in a move that management says will strengthen its role as a specialist land-based facility, the university will look to consolidate its qualifications under four broad "portfolios". They are agriculture, business and commerce, science, and environmental management, assistant vice-chancellor Sheelagh Matear told The Press.

Fewer courses would be offered but they would be more in-depth and intense than those already available.

"We've been quite reactive over the last couple years responding to immediate priorities caused by the earthquake. I think now is the time to do it [make the changes]. We have a new vice-chancellor. We have a clear strategic direction. We have to make sure our qualifications portfolio falls in behind that direction."

The move would also help to "drive revenue into the university and manage costs", Matear said.

While management has just approached staff with its reform plans, Matear said the university "would probably be reducing courses by somewhere between 50 and 100".

However, a lot those courses attracted only a handful of students, calling into question how financially viable they were.

"Students do need an amount of choice but I probably think we've gone too fine-grained," she said.

Some of the existing qualifications would have "to be worked into the [new] qualifications rather than perhaps stand as qualifications in their own right".

The plan's focus was not shedding staff. Some employees would be given a chance to shift roles, but job losses were likely.

"On an individual level we may lose some staff. I think there's a reality to that," Matear said.

Tertiary Education Union organiser Cindy Doull suggested that the changes could lead to up to 180 of the university's 720 staff losing their jobs.

"The university is saying it is not about reducing staff numbers, but [under these proposals] it's inevitable," Doull told The Press yesterday.

However, Matear rejected the number.

"I very much doubt it would be anything of that order."

Domestic numbers have remained steady at Lincoln, however as at the University of Canterbury, the number of overseas students at the institution has dropped.

"A very important part of this is making sure we have a portfolio of qualifications which are easily understood by students, and attracts students," Matear said of the changes.

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Lincoln University Students' Association president Kent Lloyd wanted to make sure qualifications that might no longer exist at Lincoln after the changes were still held in the same esteem.

"I'm hesitant to say it's great but it's not a surprise that it's happening," he said.

The university was seeking feedback from staff before releasing formal proposals in March, which would then be open to further consultation.

The proposals will then have to be cleared by Lincoln's academic board, its council, before going to the Committee on University Academic Programmes (CUAP) for final approval.

FACT FILE

Lincoln is New Zealand's smallest university.

The specialist land-based university has about 3500 full-time equivalent students.

It was founded in 1878 as a School of Agriculture linked to Canterbury College.

In 1896, the school separated from Canterbury College and became Canterbury Agricultural College.

In 1961, it was renamed Lincoln College and became a constituent college of Canterbury University.

It was not until 1990 that Lincoln University became self-governing.

Early last year, long-time vice-chancellor Roger Field retired after 42 years at the university. He was replaced by Andrew West in April.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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