AUS Tertiary Update Vol.3 No.4
ACADEMIC FREEDOM – 121 EASY STEPS
That academic boards should be chaired by an elected and independent chair instead of the Vice-Chancellor as at present is one of the 121 recommendations made on academic freedom by Dr Donald Savage.
Dr Savage, a Canadian higher education consultant and former adviser to UNESCO, was commissioned by the AUS to undertake an inquiry into the state of academic freedom in New Zealand. His report is to be published by Dunmore Press later this year.
A summary of the report, together with its recommendations, is about to be released and can be read on the AUS website [www.aus.ac.nz] from Monday 13 March.
The three main parts of the report cover definitions of academic freedom, and examine the external and internal threats and challenges to it.
Dr Savage stresses the importance of staff and community involvement in university governance for the protection of academic freedom. “Self-governing structures such as academic boards play a key role in the defence of academic freedom, ensuring that free discussion can take place on campus,” says Dr Savage.
Dr Savage recommends that academic boards should be consulted by Vice-Chancellors and Councils on all significant matters that touch on the academic enterprise, including restructuring of academic faculties.
AUS National President, Neville Blampied, welcomed Dr Savage’s recommendations. “We intend to ensure that academic boards are restored to their rightful place in collegial decision making, and that they continue to comprise a majority of academic staff not in senior management positions.”
“The freedom of university staff to develop, debate and publicise new and potentially controversial ideas is a vital contribution to the knowledge society,” said Neville Blampied.
Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. $5 million for science funding requested from Lotteries Board
2. Amendment covers return to compulsory membership
3. No room for golden oldies at Otago
RESTORE AND INCREASE LOTTERIES’ SCIENCE FUNDING
A request to reinstate Lotteries Board funding for science and research equipment and increase it to $5 million has been made by AUS President Neville Blampied in a letter to Internal Affairs Minister, the Hon Mark Burton.
The previous sum of $1 million a year was cut arbitrarily by the Board in 1997, an action defended at the time by then Minister, the Hon. Jack Elder.
In his letter, Neville Blampied points out that the Lotteries Board made a record profit of $137.9 million dollars in 1999, up $1M over 1998.
“As a result of the previous government’s decision, Lotteries’ profits now make no contribution at all to the scientific and technological foundations of a knowledge-based economy. Enhanced research in science and technology is a vital component in the strategy to achieve economic and social progress by developing this knowledge economy,” he said.
“To support science at the previous rate of $1 million per annum would require less than 1% of current Lotteries profits.”
AMENDMENT COVERS RETURN TO
Details of a proposed Education Amendment Bill covering the membership of and fees for Tertiary Students Associations were outlined by Education Minister Trevor Mallard this week.
Students enrolled in an institution which has voluntary membership may vote to return to compulsory membership if the student body receives a petition signed by 10% of students, or by a vote of an existing students' association (so long as the association represents at least 50% of students).
Fees for membership of a students’ association would be collected automatically by the tertiary provider on behalf of the association. The amendment will also cover how to achieve student representation on a Council.
AUS supports this proposal.
NO ROOM FOR GOLDEN OLDIES AT OTAGO
Despite recent changes to the Human Rights Act, Otago University has confirmed that it will seek a declaratory judgement in the Employment Court that anyone employed prior to 1 April 1992 can still be compulsorily retired at age 65. AUS will be joined by the Human Rights Commission and the Public Service Association in vigorously defending this action. The case will be heard on 19 May.
‘MADNESS’ A WORLD-WIDE PHENOMENON
The Higher (25.2.00) reports that Professor Peter Fowler, a senior consultant behind reforms at Liverpool John Moores University, has warned senior colleagues that management has isolated itself with unaccountable decisions and said some plans were ‘madness’.
Professor Fowler believes that an alliance between management and academics is essential to any reform. “Central management…has no allies at all. It is disembodied and acts as if it were running a Fordist production-line factory. Given that we are now in the 21st century this is utter folly and will lead to disaster.”
RECRUITMENT CRISIS LOOMING IN UK
A staffing crisis in the UK could threaten the ‘knowledge economy’. A report, Recruitment and Retention in UK Higher Education, lays the blame firmly on low pay (see also next item). In common with other countries that New Zealand traditionally recruits from (Australia, Canada, USA), a significant proportion of staff is now over 55 and likely to be retiring over the next decade. The report notes that many university departments are losing their brightest graduates to industry in what is described as ‘one-way traffic’.
Researchers at Bath University have analysed 40,000 survey observations of British employees since 1986 to pinpoint trends in job attitudes. The survey shows that on the ‘job satisfaction’ factor, university teachers rated 107th out of 143 occupations; on the ‘feelgood’ factor, 138th out of 143 occupations; and had the 5th highest self-reported stress levels (one place ahead of trade union officials!).
AUS Tertiary Update is produced weekly on Fridays and distributed freely to members of the union and others. Back issues are archived on the AUS website: