Lincoln University has confirmed that the last of its deputy vice-chancellors has resigned, with senior staff dealing with "intolerable pressure".
Vice-chancellor Robin Pollard said two of the deputies resigned last year, two earlier this year and the fifth only recently.
Dr Pollard said he was not surprised by the resignations, because the senior managers had been under "intolerable pressure".
"They went through a very tough time," he said. "There was the Christchurch earthquakes, the university's had poor finances for some years, there's been a lack of internal investment, the departure of the former vice-chancellor shook everybody. There were a number of inputs made to the senior management and they came from council members and from the Tertiary Education Commission and that's a very difficult thing for people in senior management positions to cope with."
Dr Pollard said a review that phased out several disciplines from the university, and staff resentment about some decisions, were also stressful.
"If you put all of those things together it's not surprising that they've gone," he said.
However, Dr Pollard said five deputy vice-chancellors were too many for a university as small as Lincoln.
"I think it was too complex, I think it's too expensive. And I think the way that I've reshaped Lincoln already, which is toward a community of scholars whereby there's devolved decision-making through the university, means that we don't really need those positions."
Dr Pollard said he had made an interim appointment to a deputy vice-chancellor type of role, under the title chief academic officer.
Lincoln's future under review
Lincoln University's council and managers are considering an independent report that explores options for its future, including closure of the institution.
The options paper by Ernst & Young was jointly commissioned by the university and the Tertiary Education Commission.
Dr Pollard said the report, which the university received in July, explored options ranging from "steady as she goes" through to closure.
He said nobody was seriously considering closing Lincoln, but the university needed to be reshaped to be viable in the future.
"It's a very serious and substantial report for the university and... at the end of this process, Lincoln will be a different institution."
Dr Pollard said Lincoln had already moved to specialise, but it needed to do more.
He said the university needed to fully embrace the "Lincoln hub" partnership with three Crown research institutes and DairyNZ.
"That presents a new opportunity for Lincoln to engage with industry and the agricultural sector throughout the country in a more productive way."