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Education and Social Work School to cut up to 30% of staff

The proposal also suggests unpaid days of leave and reduced research hours.

In an email sent to all staff in the Sydney School of Education and Social Work (SSESW) this afternoon, Head of School Debra Hayes has announced that a faculty restructure is being planned which may cut up to 30% of all full-time equivalent employment. 

The decision seems to have been initiated by the Dean of Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Annamarie Jagose, who has called upon Heads of School to “propose concrete school-based or broader suggestions” to facilitate the aforementioned cuts.

One of the suggestions raised by Hayes is for all full-time staff to take one day’s unpaid leave per week, resulting in an overall reduction of employment hours by 20%. This would involve maintaining a full 15 hours of teaching per week, whilst reducing the number of paid research and service hours. 

The email also suggests alternative solutions are unavailable, citing “the qualifying nature of [a] large suite of degrees and the absence of departments in [the] School” as the reason why cuts are necessary.

“If such cuts were to proceed, they would have devastating effects on the livelihoods of staff, and on the kind of teaching and research that the School can perform – thereby affecting many hundreds of students as well,” NTEU USyd Branch President Kurt Iveson said to Honi Soit.

“From the NTEU’s perspective, such cuts are both unfair and unnecessary. We maintain that staff and students should not pay for the pandemic. The university has other options to address pandemic-related revenue decline that do not cut jobs. Indeed, it has already put measures in place to address this year’s revenue decline, so imposing any further cuts on top of those measures is totally unjustified.”

SRC Education Officer Jack Mansell told Honi: “This latest announcement is an indication of just how far management is willing to cut from staff and students before they even consider using their own thick piles of cash and property portfolios to pay for the crisis in their market-based model for higher education.” 

“Unless we resolve to fight, they will continue to roll out attack after attack on our work and study conditions until there’s nothing left to cut from.”

This proposal follows months of attacks on the arts and social sciences at both a campus and federal level. In May, the University proposed cuts to 30% of Arts courses, which was reduced to 8% for Semester 2 after protests by the NTEU and University staff and students. In June, fee hikes were announced by the Morrison government that could see the cost of social work degrees almost double. 

A University spokesperson told Honi: There is no proposal to restructure SSESW or to cut a third of its staff hours.”

“Like other organisations across the country, we are looking at how we can safeguard our institution from the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we don’t know what the full impact will be at Sydney, the University, including staff in SSESW, are participating in a variety of scenario planning exercises. These are not final plans; they are scenarios developed for eventualities that may not arise.

“Whatever we do, our aim will be to ensure the future viable operation of the University and to preserve our education and research excellence.

“It’s also important to note that any scenario would be the subject of consultation and change processes in the normal way.

A nationwide student action to protest the aforementioned changes is taking place on August 28. The Sydney event will be held at Fisher Library at 1pm. Details can be found here.

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