NZAS alarmed by proposed cuts at the University of Otago

New Zealand Association of Scientists Co-President Dr Lucy Stewart says, “Proposed cuts to staff at the University of Otago, coming on top of recent reductions at our other universities, continue to sound alarm bells around the state of the nation’s higher education and research sectors.” 

The university looks set to cut hundreds of positions.

“The COVID-19 response has shown the benefits to the nation of a well-functioning science system, and a healthy societal respect for evidence. This seems like a damaging and poorly thought-through initiative from one of our major universities, which are a core part of our research capacity in Aotearoa.” 

“The university sector is at a crossroads, as its present financial model is clearly not working. We’ve seen major cuts to staff numbers at Waikato, Massey and AUT in the last three years. 

We can’t afford to gut our science capability and reputation at a time when health, social and environmental challenges are only growing. However, if we continue down the current path of university funding and operation, this seems inevitable.”

In the runup to the last election, the Minister for Research, Science and Innovation the Hon Dr Ayesha Verrall said her party’s, and the Government’s, policy on science and the pandemic is, “investment, not austerity.” This was re-emphasised by the Prime Minister in his first pre-Budget announcement last week.

As we emerge from the pandemic and face challenges with our environment, climate and productive sectors, now is the time to be supporting the knowledge sector, not reducing it.

The New Zealand Association of Scientists calls on the University of Otago and the Government to look for constructive solutions that maintain existing skills and experience. They are the basis of a stable, healthy research system that will enable Aotearoa to meet the big challenges we face as a nation.

Contact: Dr Lucy Stewart (

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