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Opinion, Opinion

Testing Time For UniFiji As It Faces Serious Challenge From Academics

Testing Time For UniFiji As It Faces Serious Challenge  From Academics
September 11
12:25 2018

University of Fiji management may have misjudged the strength of the academics opposition to the controversial clock-in and clock-out policy.

The academics’ decision to join the union indicates their resolve to fight and stop this policy.

Now members of the School of Law Students Association have pledged their support for their lecturers.

They have lodged their protest with the Acting Vice-Chancellor Narendra Reddy against the “harassment and intimidation of our law lecturers”.

They said “the university had threatened our law lecturers with pay cuts and termination of employment” if they failed to follow the directive.

They warned the university that as fee-paying students they respected their lecturers and they would “stand beside them in this regard”.

“We will support them with any action they choose to take in regards to such policy, because implementing it will affect our timetable.”

The new policy means that staff will only work from 8am until 4.30pm daily for five days a week which does not reflect the reality of the academics’ after hours and weekend teaching.

The policy, it is understood, will ensure that academics will work 37.5 hours a week. It ensures transparency and accountability, according to the university.

The academics say that they cannot be compared to non-academic staff, particularly those who work in administration and technical section.

They argue that the policy threatened their academic freedom guaranteed by the university decree.

Academics work after hours, weekends and even at home to cope with the pressures of work.

It is understood that the policy would restrict academics from working after 4.30pm, which would eliminate the night classes that currently takes place.

The university will not be able to handle the pressure of packing all lectures during the day because night and weekend classes for students who work would be cut out.

Some programmes would be dropped and if this happens it would undermine the revenue stream of the university.

If lecturers are paid overtime when they work after 4.30pm or the weekends, it would increase the cost for the university.

If UniFiji succeeds it would become the first university in Fiji to have academics clock in and clock out.

But, it will not get there easily. The academics are determined to make sure they protect their academic freedom enshrined in the university decree when it was drawn up by stakeholders in 2009.

With the support of Government, the university, operated by the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji, has gone from strength to strength.

The Government grant has increased steadily to $4 million this year from $3 million last year.

UniFiji depends to a large extent on fee-paying students for its revenue.

But, it has been closely monitored by the Fiji Higher Education Commission for governance issues.

On September 22, the commission will be meeting the university management to assess the situation.

Future funding increment will depend on the outcome of that meeting.

It’s therefore crucial for the university to sort out this dispute before then.




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