10 academic staff from Curtin University’s Centre for Public Health were made redundant in January 2020.
Student’s said that they had received two communications, one in December last year, sharing that their supervisor had been selected to review. Students were provided with a three-day window to send a letter in support.
The second communication came in January, requiring all students to meet with directors about transferring supervisors.
Altogether staff were mentoring 44 PhD students through their higher degree, many who were left in the dark about the future of their projects.
Implications for students
A second-year PhD student at the School of Public Health was one of the students whose supervisor was made redundant at the start of 2020.
They said that there was no formalized process, and many students felt there was no opportunity or choice regarding these redundancies.
They said that the student and supervisor relationship is ‘absolutely critical’ for a student’s PhD journey.
‘It goes beyond just getting the work done…
You choose a supervisor because it’s somebody who you believe will mentor you, and give you an opportunity to grow, and develop as a researcher or an academic’.
‘Everybody’s feeling incredibly tense, and everybody has got huge workloads’.
Guild president Hana Arai said these redundancies negatively impact on staff who remain to foot the extra work in tutorials and marking.
Staff Cuts at Western Australian Universities
ABC reported back in July 2014 ‘Curtin University staff morale at lowest point after job losses’, and since a further 20% of staff, positions have been cut within Curtin from 2015 to 2019. These cuts are an ongoing trend with universities across Western Australia.
Curtin University out of four Australian universities have lost the most staff over a five year period, with over 800 full-time positions being cut since 2015. These cuts have raised concern over the loss of quality education.
While Curtin’s student size has decreased with staff, these ongoing cost-cutting schemes are putting staff and student’s education and employment at risk.
In 2018, Curtin University attempted to implement trimesters which would essentially cut down costs and time taken to finish a degree. This would allow students to complete an undergraduate degree in under two years.
A petition with just under 12 000 signatures was signed on campus, by those who felt that the scheme would ultimately negatively impact student’s education.
A campaign was launched December last year by the National Union of Students, called Our Education in Our Hands hopes ensure that ‘Universities are driven by the pursuit of knowledge, not private profit’.