COVID-19: Otago University calls for voluntary redundancies

Otago Uni.
The University of Otago. Photo credit: Getty Images

The University of Otago is planning to lay off staff as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on tertiary education.

In a statement on Wednesday, the university revealed while it's been able to respond to the initial financial impacts of COVID-19, the impact beyond next year would be challenging.

University acting vice-chancellor Helen Nicholson says the voluntary redundancy scheme will begin on Monday.

Prof Nicholson says the university doesn't expect the rebuilding of the international student cohort to begin until 2023.

"It could then take up to 10 years for student numbers to recover," she said in a statement.

"While our historic prudency in capping international numbers insulated us from a more severe impact, we are currently losing $15 million per annum in revenue because of the drop in international enrolments."

Prof Nicholson said the university's income wasn't keeping up with ongoing costs. Revenue from domestic students simply isn't enough, she said.

"We are committed to providing a safe and appropriate working environment for staff and students now and in the future." 

Prof Nicholson said the university's current students won't be impacted by programmes they're already enrolled in for this year and next.

In her statement, she said all permanent staff members will be able to express their interest in voluntary redundancy.

She said expressions of interest will close on November 15 and decisions will be made within two weeks of that. 

A report in March found just under 700 New Zealand university workers had lost or left employment due to the financial impacts of international student numbers being slashed by COVID-19 border restrictions.