Ongoing quake impact may cut further 150 jobs

By Hana Garrett-Walker

Students outside Canterbury University. Photo / Christchurch Star
Students outside Canterbury University. Photo / Christchurch Star

The ongoing impact of the Christchurch earthquake on the city's university has resulted in 150 jobs going over the next three years.

Canterbury University today released its 10-year financial forecast, showing it will take until 2021 to get back to its pre-quake surplus of 3 per cent.

This year the university was forecasting a loss of about $19 million from ordinary operations, but then a series of one-off adjustments could lead to a loss in the order of $40 million, Canterbury University vice-chancellor Rod Carr said.

It would take another five years for the university - which is the third largest employer in Christchurch - to get into surplus.

University staff were today told that 150 jobs would be cut over the next three years as the result of lower student numbers and higher costs following the earthquakes.

Mr Carr said he did not yet know how many of these jobs would go as the result of forced redundancies.

"We'll get there by voluntary resignations, by retirements, by not filling vacancies, by letting fixed-term contracts run off, by less use of casual labour and there may be some circumstances where there is some small courses or programmes where we have to deal with staff who don't have enough students to teach and there isn't enough research income."

The 10-year forecast assumed student numbers recovered, which the University was envisioning, he said.

Since the earthquake the university had lost about 1800 domestic students, or about 13 per cent, and about 28 per cent of its international students.

"The staff have been aware for some time that the University has lost some students, they can see that...they're aware of the fact we're paid to teach students and if they're not here we're not going to have as much money to spend on everything and so this was a matter of simply updating staff on that."

Next year's budget would be "pretty tough", he said.

Labour's tertiary education spokesman Grant Robertson said the Government needed to take the bulk of the blame for the job losses.

"The Government should have seen this coming. The University was always going to face financial pressures, but the Government has done little to help," he said.

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce and the Ministry of Education should have got alongside the university last year and looked for ways to reduce job losses, he said.

Green Party tertiary education spokesman David Clendon said the job cuts were academically short sighted and bad for the local economy.

"Cuts to staff and courses is likely to exacerbate the problem of a declining roll, worsening the university's financial position further."

The job cuts sent a message of a University in crisis and the lack of adequate government support must have been very disheartening, he said.

"The Government and city council will be spending millions on rebuilding a range of community facilities. The university also needs investment so it can be a central part of the Christchurch of tomorrow," Mr Clendon said.

- APNZ

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