AUS Tertiary Update Vol.3 No. 9
COMMERCIALISATION OF UNIVERSITY RESEARCH THREATENS ACADEMIC FREEDOM
Potential conflict between the principles of academic freedom and the pressures to get commercial funding for research is revealed in the report on academic freedom in New Zealand.
Report author, Dr Donald Savage, recommends that research contracts between universities and businesses are open contracts which do not set up conflicts of interest and do not inhibit research in social, environmental and health concerns.
AUS National President, Neville Blampied said Dr Savage’s report draws attention to some disturbing possible threats to academic freedom, including the possibility that private research sponsors may try to prevent researchers from doing further research which may reveal contradictory results, or prevent university researchers from speaking out where their research reveals threats to public health or well-being. (see also “The Kept University” below.)
in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Otago Council Representation
2. Otago Students Support Concern at Them and Us Divisions
3. Massey Staff to Rally at Parliament
4. Balanced Scorecard Approach to Performance Appraisal
5. Easter Break
OTAGO COUNCIL REPRESENTATION
(see Tertiary Update, Vol.3 No.8)
Otago Vice-Chancellor, Dr Graeme Fogelberg, has written to Tertiary Update to clarify his position on the proposal to provide for Senate members and/or Professors to be represented on the University Council. Currently neither is the case. The academic staff representatives on Council are elected by all permanent members of academic staff in accordance with the provisions of the Education Act. While no Senate member is currently also on Council, there is a vacant position that provides an opportunity for a Senate member to stand for election. Senate, however, is not a democratically-elected body.
Dr Fogelberg says that the proposal is not his, and it arises from a concern that has been brought to his attention by “several senior members” of staff.
Otago AUS representatives welcome this reassurance and look forward to his careful consideration of the consequences of potentially further disenfranchising academic staff. The proposal is to be debated at a Senate meeting on 27 April.
OTAGO STUDENTS SUPPORT CONCERN AT ‘THEM AND US’
Otago students share with staff the feeling that their views were not given sufficient weight in university decision-making, as reported in the Otago Daily Times (April 12). The comments followed a University Council discussion of a working group report on university administration and staff morale.
OUSA President, Andrew Campbell, commented that ‘tinkering’ with aspects of the senate constitution, as suggested in the report, did not go far enough. He said the university needed to adopt a more collegial management approach.
MASSEY STAFF TO RALLY AT
A delegation of Massey Palmerston North staff is meeting the Minister of Education in Wellington on 19 April to press their concerns about what is happening at Massey and nationally to the university system.
This action comes in response to the announcement by their Vice-Chancellor that he intends to cut more than $7 million from their operating budget next year. The fear is that this could mean up to 200 job losses. Staff have been given patchy reasons for the cuts and will have very little time to develop or comment on proposals to meet the cuts.
BALANCED SCORECARD APPROACH TO PERFORMANCE
The language and direction of the new performance appraisal system at UCOL in Palmerston North seems out of step with the new Government’s drive towards greater co-operation and collegiality, says the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education.
For example, the proposal continues the reference to students as “customers”.
Among the performance measures listed for programme leaders is their “positive contribution to brand values” and for lecturers, their ability to meet marketing deadlines. ASTE President, Jill Ovens, asked where education fitted in with the scheme?
Among the more bizarre aspects to be measured was “…actively seek to minimise occupancy costs”. “Does that mean we get points for holding classes in the park?” she asked.
Tertiary Update wishes all readers a happy Easter. We will also be taking a break –back on 5 May.
The 1999 Young Australian Scientist of the Year is desperately seeking work overseas because her university department is ‘broke’. Ian Lowe, Honorary Professor in the School of Science at Griffith University reports that the 1998 winner had also sought work overseas.
THE KEPT UNIVERSITY
The Atlantic Monthly, March 2000 edition, discusses the university’s relationship with commercial sponsors. Its authors, Eyal Press and Jennifer Washburn state that “Commercially sponsored research is putting at risk the paramount value of higher education – disinterested inquiry.” Even more alarming, the authors argue, universities themselves are behaving more and more like for-profit companies.
The article can be found at the following URL: http://www.theatlantic.com/cgi-bin/o/issues/2000/03/press.htm
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: