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Richard Short started this petition to Universities New Zealand

We want all New Zealand university senior management and board members, and others in lead roles earning exorbitant sums, including professional managers, directors, and professors, to cut their salaries by 20%.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, on 17 April PM Jacinda Ardern announced that all ministers within her government and heads of government departments will take a 20% pay cut.

Top University salaries should align with this.*

Recently, management within at least two universities have asked all university staff – not just managers and others on exorbitant salaries – to voluntarily take pay cuts. They argue that this is necessary due to possible future income losses in upcoming years (due to the pandemic and a possible continued loss of international students).

However, the Tertiary Education Union and the Minister of Education have explained that broad pay cuts are not required at universities at the moment. Universities receive government funding (they are part of the state sector) and have large reserves and investments.

Universities have been forced to compete and run as profit-driven businesses since changes were made to the Education Act in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Universities’ costs have soared with increased management, administration, and marketing costs. Competing universities these days can’t easily exchange resources, they’ve come to financially depend on international students, they compete in cities while rural areas remain neglected, and quality teaching and research have become a low priority as workloads have increased. University managers during the current pandemic might do well to consider their role in upholding this unsustainable system.

Thousands of lower paid staff at universities – PhD and Masters qualified teachers and lower-level researchers (increasingly on precarious fixed term or casual contracts), student and academic support staff, and maintenance workers – are the frontline and backstage workers who look after students and keep universities running. These workers need to be looked after.

We demand that cuts to university salaries are made NOW at the top.


For additional information, see:

Devlin, C. (2020). Coronavirus: State Services Commissioner urges Crown entities and commissioners to slash pay.

Gerristen, J. (2020). Victoria University considers 20% pay cuts due to Covid-19 losses.

Sedgwick, C. and S. Proctor-Thomson (2018). The state of the public tertiary education sector survey, 2018. TEU.

Pollock, K. (2012). ‘Tertiary education reforms since the 1980s.’ Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

* An effective flattening of top salaries would save money. We are loathe to suggest figures as University pay scales differ. But such a policy would be appropriate given universities claim a need for financial austerity or restraint. Top salaries could be redistributed to enable better student support at this time,


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