Thursday, February 22, 2024

Professor Robert MacCulloch: Otago University's Unusual 'Global' VC Job Search

So here's the puzzle. On 14 June 2023, Otago University announced that Professor David Murdoch had resigned as Vice-Chancellor (VC), after being on sick leave since March. The university said Helen Nicholson would continue as acting Vice-Chancellor until a permanent replacement was found following a "global search".

It appears, however, that the global search did not begin in haste. It wasn't until September 21 that The Otago Daily Times reported, "Uni’s search for new vice-chancellor begins". There's a link to the job ad below. It says: Application Deadline: October 20, 2023, & states that an "inspirational servant leader of high intellectual standing, ideally obtained through experience in an academic environment" is sought. By the ads own wording, the "ideal" candidate was never to be found, former Finance Minister Grant Robertson, who got the job, having never worked in such an environment.

You can make your own deductions - here are my queries: if the above evidence is correct, isn't a global job search for such a huge position paying $629,000 per annum that begins & ends in little over 4 weeks short? Was it a coincidence that the closing date was fixed at six days after NZ's 2023 General Election (on 14 October). Did Robertson put in his application between Election Day on 14 October & the closing date of 20 October when he knew he would not be returning as Finance Minister? Wouldn't that make sense - since how could he have applied earlier? Doing so would have meant that a sitting Minister of Finance who was involved in funding the university was at the same time applying to run it. Did Otago time its VC application closing date to enable Robertson to apply after he knew the election result?

Since Otago is a public university funded by us, shouldn't we know what has gone on there? After all, the taxpayer is coughing up $3.1 million for this five year contract. Shouldn't we know whether Otago had a preferred candidate even before their job search began, despite in their own words that candidate not being "ideally" suited?


Professor Robert MacCulloch holds the Matthew S. Abel Chair of Macroeconomics at Auckland University. He has previously worked at the Reserve Bank, Oxford University, and the London School of Economics. He runs the blog Down to Earth Kiwi from where this article was sourced.


Anonymous said...

Ask the institution.

You are unlikely to get an answer but that reflects on them.

Allan said...

I thought that the Labour govt. was technically still the govt. until the new coalition govt. had been sworn in. If so wouldn't that mean that 6 days after the election he was still finance minister. If he was still on his minister's salary, he was still the minister.

Robert Arthur said...

I don't suppose any overseas applicants wre suficently versed in applied maorification, now an essentail skill for all such positons and much lesser ones.I know many persons have abilities way beyond mine but is Robertson really smart enough to grasp all the aspects of high level learning from a near cold start? After all,as with the rest of his party, he failed to grasp that the bulk of the population are vehemently opposed to maorification.

Anonymous said...

Am I allowed to say - "hmmmmmmmm.."!

I find the article interesting, in that an Academic of Auckland University would raise 'a question regarding employment requirements conducted by another University.

You say -'nothing wrong with that..'

I say - 'interesting, that Professor Robert McCulloch would ask this question, via am article on a Public Blog'.

I wonder who else across the NZ Academic domain has sat/considered/pondered/ discussed with fellow colleagues - the same question?

Does this article suggest that Otago Uni suddenly found that that those who may have, would have, could have - applied, placed their respective applications back in the bottom left hand draw, of their desks.

Knowing that said Uni has of recent times has had both - financial & staffing issues - so who would come into the Otago 'fold' to manage a potentially floundering Uni.

The question is - "How many other NZ Universities are facing the same problems thus current staff are not willing to move up or away from their current employment, or even contemplate moving house?".

Just to give context Massey Uni is facing the same issues - financial & staffing- as of today there will be redundancies.

And with Waikato potentially about to 'open their doors to Medical Students' will this will further impact on Otago's Medical School'- if so, then more financial woes.

You can read a lot into the article, make assumptions, but is it possible, that "In desperation you reach out to some one you know (in this case an Old Boy & former NZ MP of standing - since the Helen Clark Govt) to fill a position that has sat vacant for longer than it should have'?

We will leave further investigations and reporting on this issue to Sherlock Holmes - sorry Prof Robert McCulloch.

Anonymous said...

Too right, we should be told all the details. But like the Mahuta/Ormsby nepotism, you know too well the 'nothing to see here' answer that will be given from the 'sound' hands that would be given the task to answer or investigate it. There is more than a slight odour in the air.

CXH said...

Anon 'to fill a position that has sat vacant for longer than it should have'?' Advertised for one month is longer than it should have? Sounds like you are desperately trying to justify a setup, all to justify an unqualified person being gifted a high paying job. Another five years on the taxpayer, for doing something they don't have the ability to do.

Anonymous said...

How long does he have to bluff his way through this job to qualify for a generous pension?