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AUS Tertiary Update Vol.4 No.1

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AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 4 No. 1, 8 February 2001
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In our lead story this week…..
WE’RE BACK!
“Tertiary Update” welcomes all AUS members and other readers to a new year, and one that will be a watershed one for universities in New Zealand, and for tertiary education in general. It is this year that we will see the effects of the Government’s (“Have we got a deal for you!”) 2.3% increase in tuition subsidies in return for a freeze on tuition fees. That equates to an average funding increase of around 1.6% -- all well and good, until we take in to account inflation last year of 4%, and the fact that the figure is unlikely to drop below 3% in the current year.
As a result, AUS has begun a significant lobbying campaign for increased funding, and we are pleased to note that the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee has embarked on a similar initiative. The initial AUS lobbying document, “Universities: Foundation of the Knowledge Society” can be downloaded in pdf format from the AUS website: www.aus.ac.nz.

Also in Tertiary Update this week (and yes, it’s a long one as we catch up on all the news!):
1. TEAC report delayed
2. Focus remains on students
3. Fees do put students off
4. New NZQA Chief Executive named
5. New Council appointments
6. Polytechs discuss collective negotiations
7. Request for info
8. Big cash injection for higher education in Australia
9. Staff crisis looms in UK……..
10. ……And Canada acts to stop the gap

TEAC REPORT DELAYED
The release of the second report by the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission (TEAC) -- which focuses on the overall shape of the sector -- has been delayed until early March. A draft report was presented to Associate Minister, Steve Maharey just before Christmas and “Tertiary Update” understands that its contents have been the subject of discussion between the coalition government partners. The only indication to date from the government on its views on the shape of the sector has been the confirmation by the Minister of Research, Science and Technology, Pete Hodgson that the Government will retain distinct colleges of education for the foreseeable future.
The delay in releasing the second report makes it inevitable that the remaining 3 reports scheduled for 2001 will also be delayed. They cover collaboration and co-operation (due March 2001), relevant courses and learning opportunities (due June 2001), and funding learning and research (due September 2001). This could pose problems for the development of the Government’s budget for tertiary education in 2002 and is a matter of real concern to AUS.

FOCUS REMAINS ON STUDENTS
Recent announcements by leading Alliance politicians show that the Alliance remains fixated on the problem of student debt, to the detriment of major underlying infrastructure and staff problems that need to be tackled (see “World Watch” below for information on the latter).
In a speech to the Conference of the New Zealand University Students Association (NZUSA) last week, the Alliance education spokesperson Dr. Liz Gordon made it clear the party remained committed to its long-term policy of free, high quality and accessible tertiary education, but recognised that achieving that goal in the current term of government was impossible. She therefore identified priority areas for action, including reinstating the emergency unemployment benefit for students over the summer break and the universal student allowance; mitigating the worst effects of the student loan system by freezing interest rates, changing the way any interest rate is set, and reducing the penalty effect of compound interest on repayments; and introducing incentives to encourage professionals to remain in New Zealand and work after graduation.
AUS supports the calls by the Alliance to "repair" and "rebuild" the tertiary education sector after a decade of market model excess, persistent underfunding, and growing student debt. But as the National President, Neville Blampied pointed out to the Select Committee Inquiry into Tertiary Education Resourcing last week, to see focus solely on student debt, student support, and participation is to pass over the most critical aspects of the crisis facing universities. "No matter how much is spent on easing the burden of student loans and on student allowances, this makes little or no difference to the funding problems of universities", he said. "Government funding for student loans and allowances does not directly pay for a single book or journal for a university library, a single computer for internet access, a single hour of lectures, or so much as a gram of material for a science lab.” Mr Blampied told the committee that New Zealand should immediately follow the lead of Australia, the UK, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, the USA and others and reinvest directly in higher education.

FEES DO PUT STUDENTS OFF
The New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA) is calling on the government to abolish tuition fees at all tertiary education institutions in the light of big increases in enrolments at the Southland Institute of Technology (SIT) in response to its “no tuition fees” scheme. The Institute set up a community trust to provide scholarships for its students, and as a result, around 3,000 additional students have sought places at SIT. NZUSA says the level of enrolments is solid proof that fees are a significant barrier to tertiary education, and should be abolished.

NEW NZQA CHIEF EXECUTIVE NAMED
Dr Andrew West has been appointed the new Chief Executive of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. He is currently Chief Executive of the Crown Research Institute, Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS). He replaces Dr Norman Kingsbury.

NEW COUNCIL APPPOINTMENTS
The government has announced new appointments to university councils to replace resigning and retiring members. The new members are: Greg Taylor (Auckland); Trisha McEwan (Waikato); Shaan Winiata Stevens (Victoria); Sir Angus Tait (Canterbury); John Simpson (Canterbury); and Dr Sue Bagshaw (Canterbury). Ella Henry, who is director of the Maori Indigenous Research and Development Unit at Auckland University has been appointed to the Northland Polytechnic Council.

POLYTECHS DISCUSS COLLECTIVE NEGOTIATIONS
Representatives from the country’s 12 Polytechnics are meeting today in Wellington to discuss with the union representing academic staff a process for multi-employer collective agreement negotiations. The meeting follows a vote late last year by members of the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE) in support of collective employment agreements across the sector.

REQUEST FOR INFO
The Association of Commonwealth Universities is setting up an Internet bulletin containing information of interest to academics wanting to work overseas and wants contributions from academics around the world. Jocelyn Law would like to get in touch with academics to hear of their first-hand experiences of the countries they work in. She is interested in hearing from anyone from abroad working in New Zealand or from New Zealanders who have worked at overseas universities in the recent past. You can contact her by e-mail. The address is: j.law@acu.ac.uk.


WORLD WATCH
BIG CASH INJECTION FOR HIGHER EDUCATION IN AUSTRALIA
The Australian prime minister, John Howard has announced the government will put aside A$3 bn. to increase enrolments in the tertiary sector and improve research and development. A$543.6m. will be allocated to establishing a loan programme for 250,000 graduate students, and a further A$81.5m. to create 21,000 new undergraduate places over the next five years. Support for the Australian Research Council, currently standing at A$240m. a year, will be doubled. Tax write-offs for companies undertaking R & D is being raised from 125% on the amount they spend to 175%.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has welcomed the funding injection. However, it says Mr. Howard's statement did not deal with the fundamental resourcing problem facing Australian universities, including soaring student/staff ratios, and the reliance on full fee paying student income.
Mr Howard’s announcement followed a promise last week by the leader of the Australian Labour Party, Kim Beazley, that if he won this year's federal election, his government would establish Australia's first online university, to enrol 100,000 students over the next 10 years.

STAFF CRISIS LOOMS IN UK
British MPs have been warned that “sticking plaster" increases in higher education funding will do nothing to stop a looming crisis in staff recruitment in the country’s universities. Sir Michael Bett -- who produced a 1999 report into academic pay, told an education select committee that poor academic pay, coupled with student debt problems, was turning today's graduates away from a career as a lecturer, just when they were needed to plug the hole left by an exodus of lecturers due to retire in 2005. Sir Michael -- who was giving evidence to the committee as part of its higher education inquiry into student dropout rates -- said that student support was a subsidiary issue to that of maintaining quality. "It is no good supporting students in a second-rate system", he said. Committee members also heard that too much emphasis and money were directed at research and too little at teaching. MPs were told this had an impact on academic workloads, as young lecturers struggled to meet onerous teaching demands, while doing research that could bring millions of pounds in grants to their departments through the research assessment exercise.

AND CANADA ACTS TO STOP THE GAP
The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) has held a major public policy conference to discuss a looming faculty shortage crisis in Canadian universities (see “Tertiary Update”, Vol 3, No. 40). Ontario, which is Canada’s largest province, projects that its universities will need to hire between 13,000 and 15,000 faculty staff during the current decade to cope with increased enrolments, and replacement of retiring staff. Meanwhile, Quebec province is to waive provincial income tax for academics in certain disciplines who move to Quebec to teach. The offer applies to academics who are recruited from outside Canada, have a doctorate and work in the fields of health, engineering and science, finance or mathematics. It is hoped that the programme will be extended to the humanities in the near future.

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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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