Emma Macdonald August 28, 2012
The Australian National University has slated the closure of the Research Students Development Centre by the end of the year.
Postgraduate students have expressed alarm at the decision, as the office provides professional development and training opportunities for research postgraduates, in particular teacher training for PhD students.
The National Tertiary Education Union has also condemned the move as a cost-cutting exercise.
The ANU's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (research) Margaret Harding said yesterday services to postgraduates were not being cut but their model of delivery would be changed. About 12 staff are expected to be affected.
Professor Harding said: ''The university expects that the new service will have the same number of positions but with staff deployed in a different way. Discussions are underway with staff affected.''
The centre was established to help develop the skills and capabilities of research students - including training PhD students to undertake teaching and assessment roles.
The NTEU's ACT division secretary, Stephen Darwin, said this work was increasingly important and ''PhD students are more frequently been called upon to undertake these roles at ANU as permanent teaching staff numbers fall under budget cuts''.
The union believed the decision was linked to ''the brutal cost-cutting agenda introduced to the ANU by Vice-Chancellor, Ian Young''.
An independent review of the centre earlier this year recommended that the centre be better resourced. Instead, staff were told on Friday that it will close at the end of the year.
Professor Harding denied the move would result in less opportunities for research students, saying ''the university is committed to ensuring a full suite of researcher development opportunities are in place to support all higher degree research students''.
''Our plan is to expand opportunities in the future and also to capture many important college activities into an integrated university framework to benefit all HDR students. This includes ongoing commitment to current activities such as Research Fest.''
The model by which these services would be delivered ''will be different than the current Research Student Development Centre, and will be led by the new Pro Vice-Chancellor (research and research training)''.
That job is subject to an international headhunt following the resignation earlier this month of Professor Mandy Thomas.
Mr Darwin said the decision was economically, rather than academically, driven and ''part of an attempt by management to build an even greater consolidated surplus than the $82 million reported in the 2011 ANU annual report''.