A Massey University marine biologist is questioning who the Department of Conservation and iwi will call in the event of a whale stranding, as her employer discusses abandoning the course as part of a science faculty overhaul.
“We were really shocked, it felt like the carpet had been taken from beneath our feet,” senior lecturer Dr Libby Liggins said.
“I think our unit is performing really well, we're bringing in a lot of money, we're publishing really well, we have a good reputation and our science programmes in marine biology have been showing a lot of growth in recent years.”
Marine biology is one of almost 20 science majors, degrees or specialisations Massey University is proposing to cut in a discussion document which outlines a major overhaul.
The university’s discussion document says the projected budget shortfall for science in 2020 is $15.7 million, calling it a significant financial problem.
Another contentious part of the plan would see science subjects offered at just one campus, either Auckland or Palmerston North, as well as growing online degree options.
It comes after the launch of an improved Bachelor of Science degree and input from staff on the design of the multi-million dollar Innovation Complex, which is currently under construction for science and research at the Albany Campus.
“Being part of that process over the last five years to be told it doesn't align with the uni's vision is really… it doesn't sit right,” Dr Liggins said.
First year Northland student Liam Mccollum said the location of Massey’s chemistry course in Albany is the reason he chose it.
“It was a low blow, I'll give it that, it's not a nice thing to hear on your first day,” he said.
“I know there are a lot of students that share my view that if they move it down to Palmerston North well, they're just going to move to another place in Auckland.”
A petition called ‘Massey University: Save Our Sciences at Albany’ has reached nearly 12,000 signatures on Change.org.
Professor Geoff Jameson, a structural chemistry and biology academic based at Massey’s Palmerston North campus, said future budgets for the college should be increased to reflect the value of science as the world grapples with disease and climate change.
“Is this actually in the public good that Massey will produce fewer STEM graduates?” he said.
A spokesperson for the university said in a statement the university is committed to working with staff and students on the discussed changes to hear their feedback.
"While this process is underway, and no decisions about our offering have yet been made, we cannot make any further comment about potential outcomes," they said.
The discussion document outlines that declining Government funding, low enrollment numbers and the impact of coronavirus means waiting will only worsen the problem.