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Save the Otago University Physical Education Degree

This petition had 8,322 supporters

As current students of the School of Physical Education Sport and Exercise Science Degree we take strong issue with the proposed changes to academic resourcing with respect to Outdoor Education, Exercise Prescription, applied theory and practice, physical education and health curriculum and dance. These are at extreme risk of being cut from the degree or if still in existence will not be of the same quality as they are now. How is this possible where these areas in the curriculum are the most popular academic areas?

These changes are due to a significant decline in student numbers for the past five to eight years. There has been no effective strategic management plan put in place for the past eight years to manage this issue. The Division of Sciences is responsible for the changes made, rather than those who have a strong understanding of the PE degree and the needs of the wider community groups the degree supports.

While we agree that change is necessary, the statistics clearly show that the proposed changes will not be best for school and in turn, this will have a detrimental effect on the University.

The outdoor education papers are ones that are popular with all students, in particular with international students providing additional economic benefit for the university. Further, there are about 15 Ph.D. students that are losing their supervisors from the School of Physical Education due to the redundancies that are being made. This is both a loss to the University and their contributions to the academic world.

Students thrive off the practical papers such as Adaptive Snow Sports, Surf Camp and Paradise camp. These help build comradeship and whanaungatanga (building relationships). The link between these practicals and theory is highly valued amongst students, many staff and employers. The practical learning opportunities have helped historically to set the Otago graduates apart from other competitors.

We are deeply concerned that these changes will not benefit future students or increase numbers. We are the only university in New Zealand to offer a course with such breadth of curriculum. This was a massive point of difference. Being the seventh best physical education school in the world why make such drastic changes to such a unique and highly recognized degree?

Below are some of the significant changes:

9 full-time academic positions have been lost 
65 papers being reduced to about 33
8 of the 9 staff cuts made have been in the professional studies major
Exercise Prescription and Management critically compromised
Outdoor Education critically compromised (by mid 2019 no lecturers in this area)
Applied theory and practice courses lost  (in particular the outdoor experiences e.g. camp)
103 Dance and Gymnastics removed
Pedagogy and teaching preparation critically compromised
*critically compromised; loss of key respected experts in the field. As a result will these areas be considered world class?

We are bewildered as to the reasoning behind these changes. How did senior management arrive at these decisions? The expensive cost of running these papers is completely a myth. We understand that in terms of total teaching costs per student (Applied theory and practice & Outdoor Education and others that have been scrutinized) are in the bottom half of all courses taught. How can the leading female professor of Physical Education in the Southern Hemisphere be ranked as one of the least able academics within the school. These decisions make no sense.


We are questioning the quality of the decisions being made by the Pro Vice Chancellor of Sciences. 

So, how can you help?

We are asking you to please reply to this email with a statement regarding what the physical education degree means to you and how you feel about the changes. We understand you are all busy people but would be forever grateful receiving a statement of any length over the next few days. The plan is to collate these statements and present them to Harlene Hayne (Vice Chancellor of the University of Otago) in the attempt to have an effect on the proposed changes.

We have a protest planned for 12pm (meeting from 11:45am) on the 18th August. It will be held on the famous orange steps outside of the P.E school (Union Street West). We would really appreciate your support and attendance at this event.

There is also a public page on Facebook called 'PHEDDER WHANAU' which we warmly invite anyone to join to be kept up to date with this movement,
On this group, there is also a link to the petition which can be accessed. 

Yours sincerely,

The current student body

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