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AUS Tertiary Update Vol.3 No.41

Professor Jane Kelsey of Auckland University was awarded the Academic Freedom Award at the AUS Annual Conference held in Wellington this week. The Award was made in recognition of Professor Kelsey's outstanding contribution towards greater public understanding of academic freedom. She played a key role in establishing the 1999 review of academic freedom in New Zealand. That led to the publication of "Troubled Times: Academic Freedom in New Zealand". AUS established the Academic Freedom Award in 1998, but this is only the second time it has been given since it awarded only on merit. "Tertiary Update" notes that while academic freedom is enshrined in our legislation, it is thanks to activists like Jane Kelsey that the words on paper have meaning. To quote her in a chapter in "Troubled Times" -- "it is important to ensure ….that a nation maintains an environment which can foster critical and innovative ideas and the intellectual capacity of its peoples to think beyond the present orthodoxy".

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Act now! message from conference
2. Canterbury's quandary a wake-up call
3. Options still open on parallel importing
4. Seasons greetings
5. Hungary to launch student loan scheme
6. Norfolk Island Uni. seeking partners

AUS -- in a unanimous resolution passed at this week's conference -- is appealing to the government to speed up its review of the tertiary sector to prevent further losses of skilled staff and of academic programmes. AUS National President, Neville Blampied says another year of decline in the real level of funding for universities would be a catastrophe for higher education in New Zealand. “Whole research teams are being lured overseas for better salaries and, more importantly, better research support,” he warns, “and universities are surviving only by savage cuts to library funding, departmental operating funds and teaching programmes.” He also challenges the government to make good on its talk by acting to ensure universities adopt a co-operative, rather than the present competitive approach in order to avoid further losses of intellectual opportunity for young New Zealanders.

"The Press" newspaper, in an editorial on budgetary troubles at Canterbury University, says the university's woes are a "sobering wake-up call" for those who care about the future of higher education in this country. Last week the university announced it was slashing research and teaching budgets in the face of a projected shortfall of more than $6m next year. "The Press" notes that Canterbury's move follows years of warnings that the quality of its teaching was under threat because of chronic underfunding, and comments that it has implications, not just for students and staff, but also for the international reputation of our education system. The newspaper comments that this is happening to what was arguably the country's richest and best-resourced university. It is, the paper concludes, a "graphic illustration of just how far the chickens have come home to roost for the experiment with a market-funding model for education…..the crude bums on seats funding system that rewards cheap chalk-and-talk courses at the expense of post-graduate and research programmes." And, yes, "The Press" also recognises that institutions are being forced to spend those precious teaching dollars competing against each other. The point is well made. With Victoria University shedding staff to cope with its projected deficit, Massey doing the same, and Dunedin's venerable Otago University "virtually reduced to cake stalls to make ends meet", any talk of a knowledge society must, to quote The Press editorial "have a rather hollow ring to it".

At least there's one bit of (possibly) encouraging news for universities trying to control their budgets. The Commerce Minister, Paul Swain has advised AUS in writing that the government is still considering options regarding the proposed bans on the parallel importing of creative industry products (see "Tertiary Update", Vol. 3 No. 39). He has also assured us that there will be further opportunities for public submissions on the issue.

As this is the last issue of “Tertiary Update” for 2000 we'd like to take this opportunity to send seasons greetings to all our members and to other readers of "Tertiary Update". So from all AUS staff: Gabriel, Heather, Jeff, Karin, Margaret, Monica, Naomi and Rob from National Office; Deirdre, Shaun, Marty, Suzanne, Jane, Jenny, Sandy, Cara, Bronwynn and John from the Branches; and from Janice (our journalist), the compliments of the season, an enjoyable holiday (to those lucky enough to be having one!), and a safe return to work in 2001. We'll be back on 8 February, 2001.

Hungary is introducing a student loan programme next year as part of a US$250m World Bank initiative to reform the country's higher education system. At present, about 30% of high school graduates go on to university, even though there are no fees to pay. Education officials believe the others are put off by the cost of essentials such as books, clothes and rents and hope that by introducing the loan scheme they can double the number of students furthering their studies. All students will be eligible for an annual loan of US$675, with repayment schedules and will have between 5 and 30 years to pay it off, depending on their income. The Education Ministry will borrow funds on the open market to finance the scheme. Might we suggest the Hungarian officials take a good look at New Zealand's experience before they take the plunge!

Norfolk Island-based Greenwich University – which is at the centre of a row over its status in Australia – is seeking affiliation and accreditation arrangements with Australian and New Zealand tertiary institutions. In a letter made public during Senate hearings in Canberra, the University says it is expanding its educational role to approved colleges and institutions, and will "affiliate or accredit" colleges, with successful students eligible for the award of a Greenwich University certificate or diploma. Greenwich University is a distance-based institution which was recognised through legislation enacted two years ago by the Norfolk Island Assembly. It has yet to be recognised as a university by the Australian federal government, which last year set up a review of Greenwich. After a number of delays, that review is due to be completed before the end of the year. Commentators say the government's response to that report will be critical in setting a benchmark for the approval of higher education institutions in the Australian market. In the early 1990s, Greenwich made a brief foray into New Zealand via Whitecliffe School of Art.

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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