In a statement released yesterday, UWA Vice Chancellor Paul Johnson announced that Perth’s prestigious “Group of Eight” University will be laying off 300 of its staff as part of its broader cost-cutting program.

A third of these cuts will affect those employed in academic positions, with the majority of redundancies impacting those currently hired in professional roles. The cuts will commence in the new year, and are predicted to be implemented in full by the end of 2016.

It is yet to be finalized which staff in particular will be adding a job end-date to their LinkedIn profiles.

With scythe in one hand and glass of eggnog in the other, we thereby see Paul Johnson sallying up to the Christmas season with his own special breed of goodwill and cheer.

In his statement, which made its late afternoon rounds to university staff via email, the VC cites the “budget challenge” to defend the university’s so-called pragmatism. Particular emphasis is given to the ongoing debates over deregulation, which have dominated the federal government’s education policy over the past year. The protracted and irresolute nature of these debates has, to the benefit of none, created a climate of uncertainty and caution in educational institutions nation-wide, and has contributed to the kind of shameful “risk-averse” behaviours we are witnessing today.

“We need to confront these financial challenges head on, which means changing how the university operates”, the statement reads.

“Change is necessary, and must be embraced if UWA is to deliver on its mission of educating the minds of the future, finding solutions through research to many of the global problems we face, and continuing to play a lead role in our community.”

One such operational re-gearing – which will no doubt mollify and fill with gladsome understanding those under threat of losing their main income – will be the opening up of fifty new academic positions. Whilst it is not yet clear which institutional areas will be the happy recipients of this fresh injection of manpower, we are assured that it will benefit “areas of comparative advantage.”

Somewhere in the warming night, Bjorn Lomborg quivers.

Peppering the statement are also words like “research capability”, “greater efficiency”, and “long-term success”. Readers should feel free to imaginatively or with scribbly red ballpoint likewise pepper this article with words like “callous codpiece”, “Grinch applicant” and “tosser”.

Unsurprisingly, the UWA Senate-approved cuts have been met with anger and condemnation by staff, students and alumni. Similar reactions have been expressed by those in the broader Australian community who are not suffering from mean-spirited myopia.

The capacity to sleep at night aside, is it an incredible thing that the university should believe slashing jobs constitutes a viable solution to its mounting problems over reputation and funding. I mean, let’s slap the unacknowledged fact right on the table here: cuts not only hurt staff and students, but rankings too. Weakening manpower can only result in an impoverished education, and a poorer performance all round. Only last week, we learnt that UWA has distinguished its muppet-Peacock status further by becoming the first Group of Eight university to fall from its pre-eminent octet.

It now sits at number 17.

Pursue Impossible, UWA. We’d never have believed it of you, but you’ve done it. You’ve finally reached the pits.

Words by Kate Prendergast

By Pelican Magazine

Pelican is one of the oldest student publications in Australia and the only independent paper at UWA. If you enjoy writing, then Pelican is the place for you! We print six themed issues a year, and run a stream of online content.

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