AUT set to fill long-awaited e-biz chair

After a search of more than 18 months, Auckland University of Technology is close to appointing its first chair of e-business.

After a search of more than 18 months, Auckland University of Technology is close to appointing its first chair of e-business.

Business faculty dean Des Graydon says a successful interview took place last Tuesday and an appointment is likely to be made this week. If all goes to plan the person will start in three months.

The AUT began its search to fill the e-business post early in November 2000, with the expectation of an appointment early last year. The professorial post was to be the country’s first such role — though AUT believes Victoria University has got there first. The holder would have a business background and would lead research and teaching of e-business in AUT within the business faculty.

Graydon partly blames the delay in appointing an Australian-based candidate who accepted a job offer but subsequently turned it down for family reasons.

But the university’s ability to compete in a global education market and against the private sector in terms of salary is another factor. The AUT typically pays its professors between $90,000 and $110,000 a year. “Anyone we can recruit can easily go to Australia, but they can also go to private enterprise.” He says the university finds it hard to compete with the private sector but does offer a different kind of working environment. “[You’re] working with young, energetic and enthusiastic people. As a professor, you are leading research teams and exciting young minds.”

Another factor is that electronic business is an emerging field, so while the university could recruit lower-level lecturers and senior lecturers, it is difficult to find a professor who would need an international reputation and a strong research background.

The two-year post will be funded by a shared $200,000 partnership with Microsoft. After the two years AUT hopes the e-business chair will be able to secure salary funding through the appointee’s own business connections.

The AUT is also short of four e-business lecturers, which means it has to restrict the number of Bachelor of Business students taking the e-business major from 250 to 150. “There is excess demand for e-business. We are building up the numbers, but it takes time, “Graydon says.

Despite the recruiting difficulties, the dean believes New Zealand’s progress in the “knowledge economy” is not being hampered too greatly. The country can manage without a few high-flying dons since the AUT has a strong curriculum and students were being well looked after at the lower level, he says.

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