Industry professionals to teach?

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 05:00 01/04/2014
Lincoln University
Fairfaz NZ

BOTTOM LINE: Lincoln University needs to save more than $5 million to survive, including $4m in salaries, which means job cuts.

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Law and engineering lecturers could be replaced by industry professionals working as contractors as part of Lincoln University plans to slash jobs.

The university is revamping its qualifications after a review of its bachelor's and postgraduate degrees, with staff in the commerce, agriculture and life sciences and environment, society and design faculties facing unprecedented job cuts.

Lincoln-based Tertiary Education Union (TEU) organiser Cindy Doull said last week that the restructure would affect about 10 per cent of the university's roughly 650 staff.

It is understood that all eight change proposals have now been made available to staff.

Changes included disestablishing lecturing roles in law and engineering and replacing them with professionals who work within the legal community and engineering industry as contractors semester by semester.

TEU deputy secretary Nanette Cormack said replacing "professional academics who can teach and research" by "bringing someone in from outside on some sort of part-time basis" was a concern.

"These people have no experience in drawing together a lesson plan," she said.

"Many people come into tertiary teaching having had a successful career as a professional, but . . . there's actually quite a learning curve from going from a professional to being an academic."

Lincoln vice-chancellor Dr Andrew West disagreed: "We believe that it is possible and credible to do that."

The university needed to save more than $5 million to survive, including $4m in salaries, he said.

Its degree-level enrolments for international students had fallen by 26 per cent between 2009 and 2012.

"We obviously have to make savings, which is what we're trying to do. Having said that, these proposals are not cast in stone. I think the next two years will tell us whether we got it right."

Cormack said job cuts would not result in better education for Lincoln's students and the Government needed to "step in now" with financial support.

"It's really important that New Zealand retains a specialist land-based university, but in order to do that it actually has to be funded on a different model. The Government should be . . . giving them some sort of boost," she said.

"It is not viable to expect Lincoln to survive on the same funding formula as Auckland and Otago - particularly as it struggles to recover from a huge earthquake."

The proposed changes come a month after the Government cut funding to the university's Bio-Protection Research Centre.

An academic employee, who did not want to be named, said at least 20 science staff would be made redundant when the centre's funding ran out in 18 months.

West said agriculture and environmental science was "significantly underfunded" in New Zealand, which had contributed to the staffing restructure.

He travelled to China two weeks ago, with a delegation led by Prime Minister John Key, to discuss the possibility of joint ventures.

"We didn't go seeking investment, but to establish relationships with various agricultural research organisations," West said.

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"There is certainly significant interest in conjoint degrees and shared research."

- The Press

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