The Australian National University is axing its formal higher education teaching qualifications, opting instead to offer short online courses.
The move will cost up to 10 jobs, according to the National Tertiary Education Union, although ANU management says disruption will be ‘‘minimal’’ and only two jobs are likely to be lost.
Staff have been given two weeks to comment on a radical overhaul of the centre for higher education and learning, which cuts both the graduate certificate and masters courses in higher education.
Deputy vice-chancellor (academic) Marnie Hughes-Warrington said the changes were necessary due to a 50 per cent drop in enrolments in both courses on last year’s numbers.
Meanwhile, she said demand for online learning was increasing dramatically.
Professor Hughes-Warrington said 14 staff working within the centre would face ‘‘minimal disruption’’ although some would face changes in reporting lines.
She said it was possible that two positions would be lost and while redeployment was the preferred route, redundancies may be offered in line with the enterprise agreement.
National Tertiary Education Union ACT division secretary Stephen Darwin said the union had sought urgent clarification from management that a further eight positions – seven of them administrative – would not be lost in the restructure.
Union consultation with staff and early analysis of the change management proposal indicated the loss of three academic positions, and seven administrative jobs across the ANU centre for continuing education, and centre for higher education, learning and teaching.
‘‘We are extremely concerned that the job losses coming out of these changes are far beyond what the university is claiming,’’ Mr Darwin said.
He had spoken to ‘‘demoralised staff’’ and anticipated there would be some strong reaction during the consultation fortnight.
‘‘We are astounded that the ANU is phasing out a formal qualification in order to offer short courses online,’’ Mr Darwin said.
‘‘This is just not what we should expect from our national university.’’
Professor Hughes-Warrington said online learning offered greater flexibility to students who had research and workload obligations.
She noted that if students or staff wanted to undertake a formal award course rather than online short courses, the University of Canberra would continue to offer graduate certificates in higher education.
Mr Darwin said it was puzzling for the ANU to suggest its students enrol at the UC.
‘‘The NTEU is alarmed that the ANU is abandoning a broad academic development focus in favour of more narrowed focus on online training, particularly when the vast majority of ANU teaching remains face-to-face,’’ he said.
Professor Hughes-Warrington said the changes were ‘‘cost neutral’’ and investment would be made in ‘‘strengthening staff education in terms of promotions, grants and awards support’’. But Mr Darwin said the restructure was ‘‘clearly related to the relentless cost cutting agenda of the vice-chancellor’’.
‘‘The ANU will now be one of the few Australian universities not having a broad academic development centre or the opportunity for staff to achieve a formal qualification in teaching,’’ he said.
‘‘This must inevitably impact on the quality of teaching and research supervision offered by the ANU, as this function has assisted a large number of award-winning teachers to improve their approaches to teaching and learning.’’
He said 12 PhD students would also find themselves without a home, given they were based within the centre.
Professor Hughes-Warrington said she would welcome a meeting with the union to discuss the issue and would consider staff concerns at the end of the consultation period.