A management change proposal for the School of Social Sciences includes reducing the number of anthropology and social science staff from nine academics to one (CMM July 12)
It’s part of a $40m university-wide savings strategy, with VC Amit Chakma, telling ABC Radio Perth, “the key criteria is student demand, unfortunately the programmes in question have not been able to attract a large number of students” (CMM July 16).
Just how many make “a large number” is not clear. A National Tertiary Education Union submission on behalf of members in Social Sciences provides numbers which it states demonstrate student declines 2016-20 are nowhere near the 77 per cent quoted by management. And an email from the vice chancellor acknowledged an “unintended error in data extraction and subsequent processing” – the real figure, he stated is 40 per cent.
“But,” Professor Chakma added, “this does not alter the basis and need for strategic change.”
The consultation on Social Sciences is now closed, with no sign the vice chancellor is inclined to abandon the proposal. On Friday UWA told CMM, “our priority at this time remains supporting affected staff and students, while we develop a way forward that supports the University’s objectives cognisant of the feedback we have received.”
Hard to see how management could say anything else.
The VC expects most schools will make head count savings targets through attrition and/or early retirement, there will be a “formal restructuring process” in seven or eight over six months (CMM July 16). A concession now could inspire resistance later.