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Proposed cuts threaten survival of Geology at Victoria

The School of Earth Sciences at Victoria University, comprising Geology, Geophysics, Geography, and the Antarctic Research Centre, is currently under review. The review's object is to save money, as budget projections suggest that the School will run a significant deficit this year.

The result of the review has been a proposal by the Executive Dean of Science, Peter Englert, for staff and resourcing cuts that will primarily affect the Geology programme and the Antarctic Research Centre. Under these cuts, Geology would lose 3.5 out of 9.5 academic and 4 out of 7 technical positions, and the Antarctic Research Centre would lose its sole technical position and all operational funding.

The argument that such cuts will render Geology unable to maintain a credible undergraduate and graduate teaching and research programme has apparently not been accepted. The facts that other New Zealand universities offering Geology majors have at least 10 staff, that US departments with fewer than 6 staff offer only 2-year associate Arts degrees, and that a 1995 external review panel which included Professor Philippa Black of Auckland University, Dr Simon Nathan of IGNS, and Professor Kurt Lambeck from ANU found that what was being taught then (with 8.5 staff) was a core programme only, seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

The current review has considered financial factors only; quality was expressly excluded in the Terms of Reference. Despite our teaching loads being among the highest at Victoria, recent student evaluations have rated Geology teaching best overall, and last year, Geology academic staff had a higher research output per head than any other group in the university.

An excellent Geology programme is thus in danger of being made unsustainable by a process that has expressly excluded considerations of quality. This will no doubt be of concern to Society members. What should also be of concern is that Victoria appears to be putting financial considerations ahead of quality, scholarship, and all other factors in its plans for the future. Is this what New Zealand really wants from its universities?

Members are invited to express their concerns to the Vice Chancellor and the Dean of Science.

6 October 2000

This statement was prepared by staff from the School of Earth Science, Victoria University