Two years ago Cat Chapman was a stay-at-home mother who had almost given up on her dream to become a children's book illustrator. With her confidence at an all-time low, she decided to attend an art class at Auckland University's Centre for Continuing Education.

Sandra Morris, who tutors children's book illustration at the centre, immediately saw Ms Chapman's potential and introduced her to the managing director of Walker Books Australia. Ms Chapman is now illustrating her third book for them.

But talent like Ms Chapman's may go undiscovered under the university's proposal to restructure the Continuing Education Centre and slash its "Lifelong Learning" courses. From 2013, the centre's academic or research-based papers will be taught by university departments, not as night or weekend courses.

The university says it is "re-absorbing" the centre's academic papers into its existing departments, to be taught by faculty academics and tutors.


But students attending the classes point out that those classes are more expensive and are often at times that don't suit people who work. A student studying French currently pays $215 for the course through the centre. Under the Faculty of Arts programme that skyrockets to $622 for an equivalent paper.

The centre's director, Susan Geertshuis, says the decision is not final but the change is needed because of the costs associated with running the courses.

She says the Government will only fund papers that are at university level and refuses to subsidise the centre's papers. The centre has operated at a loss since Government cuts to its funding, says Ms Geertshuis.

"This effectively means other departments are subsidising CCE's activities. This cannot continue as other departments must look after their own students."

The centre offers 450 daytime, weekend and non-credit courses, in subjects such as languages, photography, art history and writing. According to its website, about 10,000 people take its courses each year.

The tutors and centre staff were told of the decision on March 6 when the university also advised recent students.

Ms Morris is one of the 11 from 18 tutors set to lose their job. The remaining seven will continue to teach within the university's departments. Those out of a job have written a letter to the University's Vice Chancellor voicing their anger.

"I think this is one of the biggest mistakes the university has ever made," Ms Morris says.

"I do not think they are looking at the bigger picture from the community's point of view."


She says despite fees rising from $209 to $263 for her classes in 2012, the roll was full.

She says the centre's tutors are experienced, educated people who provide quality education. Ms Morris has a masters in fine art from Auckland University and a post graduate diploma from the University of Newcastle, Australia, and has taught the classes at the university for the past seven years.

Former student Rachel Kania, who was also taught by Ms Morris, says she doesn't know where she can go to get the same kind of skilled teaching.

"I have learnt a lot from Sandra, she is incredibly inspiring, her classes have given me the confidence to pursue my own dreams. It's such a shame to lose the opportunity to learn from one of these talented people," she says.

Ms Geertshuis says the centre will now focus on conference management, to help business and the university organise and manage conferences. It will also monitor course administration and management across the university.

The vice chancellor will announce his final decision on the cutbacks on May 3.

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