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AUS Tertiary Update Vol.3 No.31

"The Press" newspaper reports that the University of Canterbury Council may this week consider the controversial deal the university is negotiating to pay for capital improvements. The deal is being considered by the Council's finance and audit sub-committee after three councillors who had refused to sign a confidentiality agreement were told they were being shut out of the decisionmaking process (see "Tertiary Update", Vol .3 No. 30) --and yes, all the sub-committee members have agreed to stay mum. The Vice-Chancellor, Daryl Le Grew has said all councillors will be given some information on the broad framework of the deal -- but no figures -- and he doesn't accept there's a problem with council making a decision without all the relevant information. But others have a problem with the secrecy surrounding the $100m deal, which is based on the university entering into a lease arrangement with an investor who would pay for the upgrade of the university buildings. A senior accounting lecturer, Alan Robb believes the only advantage in the deal is hiding the extent of the university's debt -- which is legal, but "of questionable validity in publicly funded organisations". The AUS Canterbury branch president, Maureen Montgomery wants to know who will bail out the university if enrolments fail to grow by the predicted 2% and the university can't service the proposed lease deal.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Southland's holds its breath over fee-free scheme
2. The Irving golden handshake revealed
3. Auckland students to vote on union membership
4. Out of Manawatu
5. It's "hands off" by government in nursing training wrangle.

It's been a tense week in the deep South as the Southern Institute of Technology tries to get together the money it needs to institute its radical fee-free scheme. Under the scheme, local businesses are being asked to put $7.2m into a fund over the next three years to will allow students a free education at the Institute. In return, the local community is promised the local economy will be boosted by about $19.5m next year, and as much as $30m in year three. The "Southland Times" reported earlier this week that the Institute still needed $950,000 to get the scheme going.

Papers acquired under the Official Information Act have revealed that Victoria University paid its former Vice-Chancellor, Michael Irving $440,000 when his contract with the university ended. Readers will recall the troubled times at Vic. under Irving and "Tertiary Update" can only hope that such management excesses are now a thing of the past, to be replaced by a more collegial approach to the management of our tertiary institutions.

Auckland University Students' Association (AUSA) has collected the signatures it needs for another vote on whether membership should be compulsory or voluntary. The postal ballot will be held during October.

The "Manawatu Evening Standard" -- in an editorial -- has highlighted the human cost of education restructuring following the news that some Wairarapa Polytechnic staff will lose their jobs as a result of the merger with UCOL ("Tertiary Update", Vol.3 No. 30). The brutality of economics, it comments, seems to be "the sadly inevitable consequence of trying to bring top level education to every nook and cranny of the country". The only way to get over this, the newspaper suggests is if the government, meaning the taxpayer, is prepared to fork out for it to be done on a continuing basis. And as it points out "thus far not even this Labour administration has shown it is game to go down such a path". "Tertiary Update" would endorse the "Manawatu Evening Standard's" conclusion: that we should at least be debating the issue.
Meanwhile, Massey University has formalised a "deed of recognition" with Palmerston North City Council. The deed will see annual meetings between the city and the university council, and the formation of a committee to develop the relationship between "town and gown".

The Minister in charge of tertiary education, Steve Maharey says he won't intervene in the spat between Massey University and UCOL in Palmerston North over the university's plan to offer a nursing degree in the city. Nursing is one of UCOL's flagship courses, and the institution is predictably upset at the Massey move, accusing it of encroaching on traditional polytechnic territory. Mr Maharey met both sides last Friday and said he had told the two institutions to sort the matter out between themselves, rather than getting involved himself. He acknowledged it was important that institutions didn't "fall over each other" to teach the same courses to students, but said he believed there was great potential to develop the city as a national centre for nurse training if the two bodies worked together. "Tertiary Update" admits to not being convinced. It sounds like competition to us, and how does that fit in with the Minister's vision of a collaborative and co-operative sector?


The President of the Association of University Staff of the South Pacific, Dr Biman Prasad wants the Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific to withdraw a threat to staff and students that they face suspension for any "ethnic or political offence likely to damage trust" between campus communities. Esekia Solofa says his directive covers "provocative comments or criticisms made within or outside the community", and he warns holders of senior positions at USP that they must refrain "from all public political activity". But in a letter to the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Prasad says it is a sad day when its head -- instead of defending academic freedom and staff -- goes public to "warn and threaten them with suspension".

In a bid to attract more students from minority groups, the University of California has proposed allowing in students in the top 12.5% of every high-school graduating class in the state if they successfully complete two years at a state community college first. The University believes the plan would attract more low-income students and those from rural areas, as well as other groups that are under-represented on the University's nine campuses. The plan must be approved by the University's Academic Council and its Board of Regents. The University has already undertaken to automatically admit students from Californian high schools graduating in the top 4% of their class despite criticism that it could lower academic standards.

AUS Tertiary Update is produced weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the union and others. Back issues are archived on the AUS website:

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