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Guilford’s call for voluntary redundancies gobsmacks VUW staff

The Tertiary Education Union (TEU) has asked the Vice-Chancellor of the Victoria University of Wellington, Grant Guilford, to be clear about his plans for the future of the university, after all staff were sent an email on Tuesday inviting them to apply for voluntary redundancy.

The email from Professor Guilford (pictured above) advised staff members with 15 years or more continuous service with the university as at 29 March 2019 that they can apply for a voluntary enhanced leaving package.

No consultation with staff or the TEU has taken place to determine what levels of staffing are needed in order to meet students’ learning and research needs.

The email indicates the prospect of a restructure, but without the prospect of due process or an obvious plan.

Nanette Cormack, deputy secretary of the TEU, said: “It beggars belief that the employer would make this offer without first discussing with students, staff, or the local community what it means for teaching and research at the university. Staff are understandably concerned about having to make a decision about their job with no information about the future structure of their workplace, and no chance to have a say on what would work best for the university and its students.

“Based on how the university intends to manage this surprise offer, it is simply not possible for staff to make an informed decision about what is right for them and their families, but also what is right for the students they have dedicated fifteen years or more to teaching and supporting.

“The VC needs to withdraw the email immediately and commit to a proper review of university structures, involving full consultation. The current way of proceeding, if not checked, will have a profound negative effect on the university and chilling effect on morale throughout the remainder of the university,” said Cormack.

Speaking to BusinessDesk, Guilford said the university’s 2019/20 budget was completed and showed the three percent surplus required by the Government of all universities. But falling numbers of New Zealand school leavers and competition for international students meant the university felt it should take the “prudent step” of seeking a buffer against unexpected events.

“This is about giving us some freeboard in case there are shocks,” he said.

In some areas, including science, healthcare and engineering and “some parts of the humanities”, enrolment growth was strong, but staff-student ratios were getting out of kilter in some parts of the humanities, which he declined to name.

There were no targets for voluntary redundancies and the university reserved the right not to accept applications from academics in areas where there was strong enrolment demand.

Eligible staff have until March 29 2019 to express interest in an offer.

Under Grant Guilford’s vice-chancellorship, the Karori campus of Victoria University of Wellington, formerly Wellington Teachers’s Training College, was acquired for $10.00 from the Ministry of Education. The beautiful, bespoke and architecturally significant complex was sold to retirement village developers Ryman for millions of dollars, and is about to be largely demolished.

Guilford is also behind the hotly contested proposal to change the name of Victoria University of Wellington to “University of Wellington”.

Born in Christchurch, and with a primary residence in Auckland, Professor Guilford completed a Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Bachelor of Philosophy at Massey University before travelling to the United States for a PhD in nutrition from the University of California, Davis.

His 1993 thesis was titled Experimental Studies of Gastrointestinal Ischemia-Reperfusion Injury and Food Sensitivity in Dogs.