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  • rmacculloch

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?



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