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Students consider future after Unitec staff made redundant

Monday 25 Nov 2013 5:29 p.m.

The staff of an entire department at Unitec have been made redundant this afternoon, and the polytech can't rule out more cuts.

All 50 staff in the Design and Visual Arts department have been told to reapply for 17 positions, a move which they're calling brutal.

Before staff faced their fate, students stood firm in support.

All of Unitec's Design and Visual Arts department faculty were called to a meeting this afternoon, where they were made redundant.

"We're devastated by the news today delivered to us. We're bearing witness to the decimation of a vibrant industry-led visual arts degree," says interior design senior lecturer Dr Rachel Carly.  

They have to reapply for 17 positions, a move that's angered students enrolled in the courses.

"Right now there's a large group of people that are very upset, very disillusioned and they're not sure what to believe," says visual arts student Marisa Vodanovich.

And the lecturers agree.

"I think their education is going to be impoverished because they're going to be taught without a solid base to mentor them throughout their degrees," says senior lecturer Janine Randerson.

Five hundred and sixty students are enrolled in the department, which Unitec has used to showcase its motto of "real world learning".

Unitec says it wants to introduce professionals from within the design industry to replace the full-time teaching staff.

"They bring with them live industry projects, which they deal with on a daily basis. They bring that into the studio space for our students to interact with that on a daily basis," says executive dean Leon de Wet Fourie.

However, the students couldn't agree less.

"How can reducing staff from 50 to 17 to service almost 600 students be right? The maths doesn't add up. It's wrong, fundamentally wrong and unfair," says Ms Vodanovich.

Unitec says it's not about cutting costs, but providing a more real learning experience.

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