The country's biggest teacher training institution, the University of Auckland, is cutting its education faculty by 15 per cent despite New Zealand experiencing its worst teacher shortage on record.

It's also chopping 11 jobs in languages, and may stop teaching some languages, as student numbers decline in both languages and education.

The cuts come just a week after the Secondary Principals Association said the teacher shortage was now worse than last year and in some cases the worst on record, with more than 40 per cent of high schools asking staff to teach outside their specialist subjects.

The Government announced plans in this month's Budget to hire 1500 extra teachers to cope with growing school rolls by 2021.

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But domestic student enrolments in teacher training dropped by 40 per cent nationally from 2010 to 2016, and by 27 per cent at the University of Auckland from 2013 to 2017, as the buoyant job market lured many people out of training and into jobs.

Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon says a
Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon says a "very, very small" increase in arts and education enrolments this year is not enough tp prevent staff cuts. Photo / File

University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon said first-year enrolments were up slightly this year, possibly reflecting the Government's fees-free policy, but it was not enough to stave off staff cuts.

""We are seeing a small increase in first-year numbers across the university in first-year numbers, but it's very small and nowhere near enough to deal with the problem," he said.

"The trends in both education and arts were very, very small, and not enough for us to recover to the level of previous years."

He said he had "buffered" education and languages by allowing them to keep more staff than they could justify by student numbers for the past few years, but that meant growing faculties such as engineering and science had fewer staff than they needed.

"That simply isn't something that we can keep on doing endlessly," he said.

He has proposed axing 23.4 of the 155 fulltime-equivalent academic staff in education and social work, and 11.8 out of 55.8 jobs in languages.

He said the cuts in languages would "probably not" require axing any language completely.

The university's School of Cultures, Languages and Linguistics is ranked one of the world's top 100 schools for modern languages and linguistics, teaching Chinese, Japanese, Korean, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish.

"There are some languages where student numbers have been falling more than others. The whole point [of the consultation process] is to explore with the staff in the faculty where the reductions should most appropriately be made," McCutcheon said.

Education and Social Work dean Mark Barrow delivered the news to all faculty staff at the Epsom campus today. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Education and Social Work dean Mark Barrow delivered the news to all faculty staff at the Epsom campus today. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Staff at the education faculty in Epsom were downcast after the proposals were unveiled by faculty dean Dr Mark Barrow, saying they had been told not comment to media.

Tertiary Education Union president Dr Sandra Grey said the cuts were unnecessary given the university's $68 million surplus in 2017.

Tertiary union leader Sandra Grey says Auckland University posted a $68m surplus in 2017 and doesn't have to make proposed staff cuts in education and languages. Photo / File
Tertiary union leader Sandra Grey says Auckland University posted a $68m surplus in 2017 and doesn't have to make proposed staff cuts in education and languages. Photo / File

"We desperately need more teachers," she said.

"The Government has agreed to work with the sector on making sure that the funding model is fit for purpose. It's disingenuous to throw people under a bus before we have had any conversation about what the model is going to look like."