Council member fee and senior leadership staff salary reductions at Victoria University of Wellington support students and staff

Members of the Victoria University of Wellington Council are reducing their fees by 33 percent for the rest of 2020, as part of the University’s response to the challenges presented by COVID-19.

Chancellor Neil Paviour-Smith says Council members unanimously agreed to the voluntary reduction with the money being donated to the University Foundation’s Great Futures programme, which supports students facing financial hardship to attend university.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Grant Guilford, has already voluntarily implemented a 20 percent reduction to his salary for the rest of the year with the money being donated to a staff hardship fund to support fixed-term staff such as tutors, research assistants and residential assistants (who work in the University’s halls of residence).

All other members of the University’s Senior Leadership Team have also volunteered to take a 20 percent reduction in their salary for a similar period.

Mr Paviour-Smith says the University Council will be doing all it can to support staff, students and management with the challenges facing the University.

“Like other universities, we are now in a period of significant uncertainty, especially as that relates to international student numbers, revenues and how we operate. This uncertainty is having a huge impact on everyone in our community.”

Mr Paviour-Smith says the University will record a significant operating loss in 2020.

“Council is realistic about the immediate financial position of the University but also committed to taking all reasonable steps it can to address the trend and steer the University towards a better financial outcome in 2021 and beyond.

“We are also mindful of the need to mitigate against reductions to student experience while continuing to excel in our research quality and in maintaining our international rankings and reputation.”

Mr Paviour-Smith says the top priority is to exhaust opportunities to grow revenues. There is also an expectation that management will strive for efficiencies and non-people cost savings wherever possible.

“We agree with management that the University should do all that is reasonably possible to mitigate against job losses. However, there remains a risk that if we are in a prolonged period where our costs are greater than our revenue, additional measures will have to be explored. Council will be regularly reviewing the position and ensuring that decisions are balanced and proportionate to assessed risk.”

Mr Paviour-Smith says the University remains committed to the core principles in its Strategic Plan, which confirms its role as a global-civic university with its marae at its heart and its distinctive attributes including students as partners, honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi, a commitment to sustainability and wellbeing, and governing for the future.

However, he says, some elements of the Plan will be reassessed in light of the challenges presented by COVID-19.

“We have great faith in the long-term future of the University. In our 120-year history we have confronted and addressed many challenges and we are confident the University will get through this latest crisis as a community.”