Massey researchers are worried for their futures at the university amid a radical digital shake-up.
It's understood the university is poised to announce a major restructure, affecting staff across its three campuses in Auckland, Palmerston North and Wellington.
Auckland academic staff have told the Herald they fear a new online-focused strategy could see science positions lost from Massey's Albany campus.
Several senior staff members have also hit out at what they consider a lack of consultation – and one said they felt "betrayed" over the proposals.
The furore centred around a just-launched online-based strategy called Digital Plus, which the university has touted as a way to future-proof its offerings.
Under the strategy, and to avoid "duplication", there would be a single "anchor campus" for each subject where it would be taught face-to-face and online, while elsewhere they'd be offered digitally.
Although no decision has been made, Albany science staff fear the "anchor campus" for their subject would become Manawatu – affecting many full-time academics and many other research officers and PhD students in Auckland.
Under this scenario, the most affected group would likely be Albany's School of Natural and Computational Sciences (SNCS), which boasts some of the world's leading scientists.
It was one of six schools under Massey's College of Sciences, which also included the Albany-based School of Built Environment and the Manawatu-based schools of Veterinary Science and of Food and Advanced Technology.
The college's pro-vice chancellor, Professor Ray Geor, was scheduled to visit Albany on Wednesday.
One academic told the Herald that staff had been reeling since the proposed new structure was announced.
"We are still trying to recover from the initial shock… we feel like we aren't being represented at the highest levels of the university," they said.
"I keep varying between feeling incredibly anxious about what's going to happen, and feeling really depressed about Massey abandoning this group of people that's worked really hard to build something great in Albany."
They were aware of colleagues who were already beginning to send their CVs off.
"A lot of people are thinking, if there is going to be a purge, I might not survive it, and I have some funding, I have to protect the people that are working with me, and I have to start looking for other jobs."
Another senior staff member claimed Digital Plus had been "bulldozed" through by the university's senior leadership team, without being put to the Academic Board.
"We already see staff leaving or looking for other jobs. Many world-leaders in their field are disgusted and look for other opportunities overseas."
A third staff member compelled university leadership to "walk the talk" and engage properly in consultation.
They were sceptical about the Digital Plus strategy itself - particularly in effectively teaching science - and worried what it would mean for attracting students.
They described the SNCS as a small but high-performing school that boasted more Marsden Fund and Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) grants than any group like it in New Zealand.
And a fourth said: "We have a massive credibility crisis, focused on the Vice Chancellor.
"The environment across staff in each campus is one of low or zero trust in the top leadership."
The frustrations, which came after months of dissent over moves such as a now-ditched proposal to introduce car parking charges at the campus, were aired at a packed staff meeting at Albany this week.
An FAQ sheet provided to staff stated that, although Digital Plus wasn't "an announcement of redundancies", it was likely to affect "some" academic staff whose subjects were currently spread across more than one campus.
"Any changes affecting staff will go through a proper proposal for change consultation process. Until that process takes place, the university will not be in a position to know if, or how many, jobs will be lost as some staff may move into different roles," it stated.
Staff were also told it wasn't "a done deal" and that no decisions had been made, and were promised "full and thorough consultation processes".
The Herald asked Massey whether the science college would be entirely based out of Palmerston North; whether there would be job losses, and if so, how many; whether it would negatively impact its ability to attract students; and what the process would be from here.
A spokesperson said the university wasn't able to yet comment on what approaches would be taken, and referred the Herald to a January media release about Digital Plus.
In it, Provost Giselle Byrnes described the strategy as "an ambitious step-change".
"Most students, whether school leavers or mature students, now opt to study in blended and flexible mode. Domestic students can no longer be defined as being 'on campus' or 'online'," she said.
"These distinctions are becoming increasingly blurred as students choose a more flexible approach to their learning.
"We believe that digitally enhanced and digitally mediated learning platforms can deliver flexibility and enhance more personalised learning.
"And we believe that students deserve and expect to have excellent and equivalent learning experiences, regardless of where they are located and whatever medium they choose to study through."
Byrnes said all decisions would be evidence-based and made according to agreed policies and procedures.
"We want to ensure our decision making is consistent, strategic and focused on what is best for the future of Massey University."