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‘Amazing staff’ help navigate tough times

Thursday 28 July 2022 2:40pm

forum mainVice-Chancellor Professor David Murdoch reflects on his first six months in the role at a staff forum.

Vice-Chancellor Professor David Murdoch says the University of Otago is in robust shape as it negotiates internal change and external pressures.

Speaking at his first staff forum, Professor Murdoch paid tribute to the “amazing staff and students” who had “kept the institution going during these tough few years”.

Despite numerous challenges, which on a personal level included a recent bout of COVID-19, Professor Murdoch said he remained “genuinely positive” six months into the role.

“A few people have said, ‘Are you still here? You haven’t run away yet?’ Yes, it has been a busy time, but there's no chance of that.”

He said Otago was a good employer, had a strong reputation for research and teaching, achieved high levels of student academic performance and had good relations with Government agencies.

“We've got a very seaworthy vessel. Is it one that’s prepared for all the storms ahead? Probably not all of them. The vessel’s probably got a bit of a list because of some of the things we need to get right in terms of culture and our processes.

“But actually, it's a very seaworthy vessel and I wouldn’t have been attracted to this job if I thought otherwise.”

Professor Murdoch said the University was at a critical point in its relationship with mana whenua “which is really exciting”.

“We're at a time where there's a willingness all round to acknowledge the past frustrations and move forward and to understand what it might be to be a truly Te Tiriti-based institution. And I'm very optimistic about this. This is exciting and very important for us.”

In a broader sense, he said the COVID-19 pandemic had shaken up tertiary education more than any event since World War 2 and Otago needed to do things differently.

This meant responding to financial pressures, improving slow and cumbersome processes and thinking creatively about teaching and learning delivery models.

Organisational culture issues which had recently come to the surface needed to be confronted and it was a positive to have the opportunity to address them: “This is part of getting our vessel in shipshape condition.”

Otago University staff can access a recording of the forum (link below)

Key topics covered:

  • COVID and Influenza
  • COVID and enrolments
  • Pūtea Tautoko
  • Student diversity
  • Culture change project
  • Working from home policy
  • Leave changes

Meeting recording can be accessed here

Passcode: 9EBGip#V

When clicking the link, a webpage will open to view the recording and prompt for the password.

Having issues? If you are not signed into your Otago Zoom account, you will be prompted to sign in:


- Click the SSO option
- Type “Otago” as the company domain
- Enter your university username and password when prompted.
- Then re-click the recording link to view the recording