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AUS Tertiary Update Vol.3 No.40

Parliamentarians have been warned that the loyalty of medical specialists is being tested in the face of markedly better offers from overseas. AUS highlighted the problem during a session in Christchurch of the Education and Science Select Committee hearing into student loans, allowances, and tertiary funding. The associate professor of medicine and clinical pharmacology at the Christchurch School of Medicine, Evan Begg, cited the example of the school's cardiology team, which recently discovered a heart hormone significant in diagnosing and treating heart failure. Professor Begg said offers had been made to several members to go to Melbourne. "When people are being wooed with great conditions and great salaries there's a limit to people's loyalty to stay." Professor Begg added that all New Zealand's schools of medicine and dentistry were finding it difficult to recruit and retain expert staff because of rising costs, coupled with reduced government funding. He said the situation was further complicated by the fact that hospital clinical staff are paid between $20,000 and $25,000 more than medical and dental academic staff.
AUS organiser, Marty Braithwaite told the select committee the Christchurch Medical school was unable to attract professorial candidates in radiology, anaesthesia, obstetrics and gynaecology, and orthopaedics. He said New Zealand needed to make a decision immediately as to whether it wanted to provide first-world teaching, or sink to third-world status -- "Because, without exaggeration, that's where we're heading with the current environment." Staff at the University of Otago School of Medicine have calculated that they need an extra $4250 for each equivalent full-time student to deliver their programme to a high standard.
(see also “World Watch” item below}

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Focus on tuition fees wrong
2. Enrolments Soar At Southland Polytech
3. Polytechnic provision in Hutt Valley will continue, says Minister
4. AUS Annual Conference
5. An encouragement to teach
6. Double whammy heading Canada’s way.

The Executive Director of the Association of Polytechnics of New Zealand, Jim Doyle, has told “Education Review” that the Government’s preoccupation with the level of tuition fees is not tackling the real problem with the student loan scheme -- borrowing to meet living costs. Most of the borrowing goes towards living expenses, and Mr Doyle points out that while unemployed young people receive money for living costs --and do not have to repay it -- students must repay theirs with interest. “Tertiary Update” agrees. By focusing on tuition costs, the Government is in danger of crippling the very institutions it expects to drive the knowledge society.

Applications for places at the Southern Institute of Technology in Invercargill are reportedly up 150% on last year. The rise in the number of applications is being attributed to the polytechnic's no-fees-for-students scheme, although a number of applicants will be disappointed -- the polytechnic is not offering any more places than in previous years. The scheme is in effect a scholarship scheme. The community has come up with the money to cover the students' fees and living costs -- calculated to be about $11,500 per student -- in a bid to attract a greater range and calibre of students to Southland. The chief executive, Penny Simmonds, says the polytechnic had assumed the scheme would attract young students, but says a large number of older students are taking up the offer, and bringing their families with them.

The Tertiary Education Minister, Steve Maharey says the government is committed to providing tertiary education in the Hutt Valley. The Central Institute of Technology (CIT), which is in financial difficulty, has been holding talks with Hutt Valley Polytechnic (HVP) on possible collaboration. Mr Maharey has welcomed the talks, and assured students that whatever the outcome, they can enrol at either institution and be confident that they will continue to get a quality tertiary education.
The Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE) wants a merger of HVP and CIT, with courses being offered at both sites. The union has also been pushing for trades education to be offered in Wellington city itself now that Wellington Polytechnic is part of Massey University.

The AUS Annual Conference is being held at the Quality Inn, Willis St, Wellington on Monday 4 and Tuesday 5 December 2000. All of the preparatory conference papers have now been posted on the AUS website: During the conference we plan to add speeches by the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Steve Maharey; the chair of the Education and Science Select Committee, Dr Liz Gordon; National's spokesperson for tertiary education, Maurice Williamson; and the President of the University of the South Pacific staff association, Dr Biman Prasad.

With our medical schools in a parlous state (see earlier story -- Limit to loyalty of medical specialists….), it's interesting to consider this news report from the United States. In an effort to bolster medical education at teaching hospitals, both Harvard University and the University of California at San Francisco plan to create multimillion-dollar endowments for medical doctors who spend time teaching. A report in The Boston Globe newspaper says the programme will cost each institution about US$10m. The money is recognition of the fact that many medical professionals are discouraged from teaching since they tend to earn more from research grants or clinical work.
And if "Tertiary Update" might take a step back in history for a moment: during the 1980s, when academic salaries came under the jurisdiction of the Higher Salaries Commission, AUS argued strongly for a premium to be paid to medical people choosing to undertake university teaching and research. The result of not taking that advice is documented in our lead story this week.

While changes in demographics are boosting student numbers in Canada, they are also seeing the disappearance of the people needed to teach them. At present, one-third of faculty staff at Canadian universities are aged 55 or over, and it's expected that more than 20,000 of the country's 33,000 academic staff will have left by the end of the decade. That means Canadian universities have before them the daunting task of finding 30,000 new faculty staff to cope with growing numbers of students -- and only 10 years to do it in.

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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