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Vice-Chancellor updates staff

Thursday 10 July 2014 8:08am

Harlene Hayne at forum image
Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne addresses a staff forum at the St David Lecture Theatre on Friday. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne’s recent staff forum was an opportunity to share Otago’s achievements and also to ask staff for help.

Professor Hayne spoke to a full St David Lecture Theatre, updating staff on a number of University matters, including recent successes, threats and opportunities. The briefing was live streamed to staff in Christchurch, Wellington, Invercargill and Auckland.

“Part of my job as Vice-Chancellor is to sell the University of Otago. I share our great achievements with prospective students and their families, the Government, funding agencies and people overseas. But I have probably neglected to share them with those who matter most – those who actually work at the University of Otago and make such a fine contribution.”

"I share our great achievements with prospective students and their families, the Government, funding agencies and people overseas. But I have probably neglected to share them with those who matter most – those who actually work at the University of Otago..."

Professor Hayne told the 550-strong live audience about many Otago successes, including consistently ranking in the top 1 to 3 percent of universities in the world, receiving more national teaching awards than any other New Zealand university, and boasting one of the world’s most beautiful campuses.

Professor Hayne also spoke with pride of the ways the University is meeting Government Priorities for 2013 to 2015.

Both Māori and Pacific student numbers are up, and the academic achievements of both groups have also risen.

Otago researchers are making their mark on New Zealand’s development – through knowledge exchange, collaboration and commercialisation strategies, and the University is also working to attract more international students.

“Universities are full of people with a healthy ‘you’re not the boss of me’ attitude,” Professor Hayne said. “But it turns out the Government’s priorities and Otago’s strengths are highly consistent which means that we do not have to radically change what we are doing in many areas.”

Professor Hayne also took the opportunity to discuss what she feels are the main threats to Otago – flat funding for Humanities and Commerce, the regional location of our main campus in Dunedin, and overall student numbers.

“We have made it harder to get into Otago, and easier to get yourself excused. I make no apology for these decisions whatsoever. Our emphasis is on quality rather than quantity. We have made our institution more academically elite, and as a result more students want to come here. For the last few years our first year numbers have been up. At the same time, however, we are still working through a decline in numbers due to the tightening of our academic progress policy.”

Professor Hayne spoke of the University’s opportunities. In the current economic climate alternative funding sources should be sought – and the University should try to become as independent as possible from traditional sources of funding. She urged external partnerships with other research organisations, collaborations with business and looking to our alumni for their influence and expertise.

"“There are a great many professionals around this University who see problems as a challenge, not a catastrophe. I thank you and ask you to continue to do good work."

Finally, Professor Hayne asked staff for help.

“Please continue to pursue excellence in everything you do,” she said. “There are a great many professionals around this University who see problems as a challenge, not a catastrophe. I thank you and ask you to continue to do good work.

“I can’t see that the constraints on our budget will improve any time soon, so I need you to help us to find ways to do more with less.

“I would also encourage you to continue to engage with students, the community, the Government and each other.

“And don’t ever forget how lucky we all are. We work in a place where we genuinely like and care about our colleagues. That’s a good reason to get up and come to work each day.”

Chief Operating Officer John Patrick also spoke at the forum – telling staff of planned developments worth $650 million. The Bulletin ran that story on Friday – read it here.