The University of Western Australia is set to cut staff numbers by around 300 places next year in a bid to rein in costs and re-target resources to more competitive divisions.Two thirds of the staff that will go will be administrative and professional support, while the remaining 100 will be from the university’s academic ranks.But 50 new academic positions will be created in areas where the university has a competitive advantage.Vice Chancellor Paul Johnson told staff yesterday that it was part of a process of renewal and a step towards it meeting its objective of being ranked a top 50 global University by 2050.The moves had passed the university’s governing board, the senate, on Monday night, he said.“This is not news delivered lightly, particularly in the lead up to the festive break,” Mr Johnson said in an email to all employees.“But I also recognise there will never be a good time to deliver such news.“I am also aware that there has been much speculation on this matter across campus, and so I want to provide what certainty I can as soon as I can.”Mr Johnson had flagged the need for cost cuts previously, including in two papers he had opened for staff consultation.“Wherever possible we should try to revise our internal administrative procedures to reduce cost, complexity and manual processing,” he said in one paper.“... Relative to our key Australian comparator universities, we have a higher ratio of professional to academic staff, a lower percentage of professional staff employed in central units, a below average proportion of specialised staff, and an above average proportion of professional staff in junior positions.”According to BNiQ, the University has a staff of around 3,750 full time equivalent positions, making the planned reduction about seven per cent of its total workforce in net terms.Less than half of all staff worked in teaching and research roles, according to the university’s 2014 annual report, while a further quarter worked in professional roles within academic divisions.National Tertiary Educators Union WA secretary Gabe Gooding said he felt the decision was unjustified.Mr Gooding said it was a poor decision and that Mr Johnson was ideologically driven.It follows concerns earlier this year from some in the sector that spending reductions would be necessary if the government did not proceed with its fee deregulation package, including Group of Eight chief executive Vicki Thomson.“We desperately need a long-term sustainable solution to current funding problems,” Ms Thomson said. “What we are left to manage is a broken system, one where there is a deregulated intake of students but a regulated fee structure and much reduced government funding. “It simply cannot work.”
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