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AUS Tertiary Update Vol.4 No.2

AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 4 No. 2, 15 February 2001
In our lead story this week…..
The government has made it clear it won't intervene in the row between Massey University and UCOL over their nursing courses. UCOL has complained that Massey's new bachelor of nursing degree at its Palmerston North campus is in direct competition with its flagship nursing programme begun 20 years ago. The Associate Education Minister Steve Maharey has written to the institutions telling them the government has done as much as it can to help settle the dispute and urging the two sides to talk things over. "This is a local problem, which should have a local solution," he writes.
Meanwhile, the second report of the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission, “Shaping the System”, will be released in Wellington on Wednesday 7 March at a meeting in the National Library Auditorium at 10:00 a.m. The report sets out TEAC’s view on how the tertiary education system should be shaped and the tools and mechanisms needed to make it happen. "Tertiary Update" suggests the competitive spirit in Palmerston North will provide the first real test for TEAC.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Re-scheduling of TEAC reports
2. Knowledge Society conference
3. Arguing for a wisdom economy
4. Show us your debt
5. Graduates not leaving in droves
6. Loans as bait for UK teachers
7. Questions about U21
8. Students occupy the Bodleian.

TEAC has announced it will now produce only two further reports this year after delays to its "Shaping the System" publication. As we noted last week ("Tertiary Update" Vol. 4 No. 1) TEAC was due to produce a further three reports this year, but that schedule is no longer possible. Now TEAC will produce a report on the form and content of a tertiary education strategy for July, and will follow it up with one on implementing the strategy, including funding issues, in September.

The Government and the University of Auckland are organising a national conference to draw up a blueprint for New Zealand to become a knowledge economy of the 21st century. "Catching the Knowledge Wave" will take place in early August. It will be co-chaired by the Prime Minister, Helen Clark and the Vice-Chancellor of Auckland University, John Hood. Topics on the agenda include economic impacts, policy, governance, social and cultural issues, and environmental sustainability. Attendance will be by invitation only, and participants will include the heads of major companies, senior government officials and politicians, representatives from the research and higher education sectors, as well as major media and community organisations. Young people will also be invited to participate. CTU and tertiary education union representatives are to be invited to join the Advisory Committee. Prime Minister Helen Clark is to make a formal announcement about the conference at an Auckland University alumni dinner tomorrow night.

The co-leader of the Green party, Rod Donald, says despite its talk of building a knowledge economy, the government has yet to make a significant contribution to improving the tertiary education sector. In a speech to the House on Tuesday, he argued that a knowledge economy is more than information technology, science and business. "It is," he said, "about building the knowledge and wisdom base of New Zealanders on how to live in our natural environment…how to build and care for communities, how to build a sustainable economy, how to live with others without conflict and how to actively participate in decision-making processes... " Mr Donald said financial problems in the tertiary sector had created an environment of uncertainty and low morale that did not produce quality education. He called for reinvestment in higher education and for the government to implement Green Party policy of debt write-offs for all students who choose to remain in New Zealand and incentives for those overseas to return by matching debt repayments dollar for dollar.

Students say the news that the British government will restrict access to working-holiday visas for New Zealand students with significant loan debt is taking away a right that previous generations of young New Zealanders took for granted -- the right to live and work overseas. The co-president of NZUSA, Sam Huggard says the move puts students "between a rock and a hard place". "If they can't find a job in New Zealand, or have children, their loan will be with them for life. Yet if they head overseas looking for work to alleviate their debt, they are being told to go home," he says. Mr Huggard says that a scheme set up to provide financial help for students to help them complete their study is fast turning into a restrictive trap that is "preventing graduates from leading normal lives".

A recent survey of graduate employment suggests no dramatic increase in the number of recent university graduates going overseas. The "University Graduate Destinations 2000" report, published by the Vice-Chancellors Committee, shows an increase of 6.1% in the number of graduates reporting "overseas" as their destination compared with the last survey -- and points out that this is at a time when graduate numbers have slightly increased as well.

The British government is proposing that undergraduates could have their student loans paid off by the government if they opt for a teaching career in subjects where there are staff shortages. These include maths, science, technology, languages and English. The move is among a number of financial incentives that will be offered to students from next year as part of the government's new five-year plan to drive up secondary education standards. The plan has been welcomed by the National Association of Head Teachers, which wants to see the scheme offered to all newly-qualified teachers. The teachers' union NASUWT says it "throws into chaos" the whole principle of student loans. "Students will be up in arms in protest if they are not one of the favoured group to have their fees waived," said its leader, Nigel de Gruchy.

Proposals by Universitas 21 to establish its on-line university through a joint venture with Thomson Learning Ltd have drawn strong criticism from affected staff and students. Universitas 21 groups universities in Australia, New Zealand, North American and Britain and is currently negotiating a deal with Thomson Learning. Staff unions for U21 member universities, including AUS, have sent a letter calling on the consortium to negotiate with staff on academic and employment issues before any agreement is finalised. The letter says staff are concerned that little information had been made available about the proposed university. "Questions about governance structures, intellectual freedom, quality assurance, intellectual property and financial arrangements must be addressed, so that staff, students and the community which provides funding to these institutions can have confidence in the venture," the letter says. A network of student representatives also wants assurances from Universitas 21 that "its original mission of international academic exchange remains at the heart of its strategic directions"

Students last week staged a two-day occupation of the University of Oxford's historic Bodleian Library in protest at the university's imposition of academic penalties against students who had refused to pay for tuition. The students ended their protest after university authorities threatened them with arrest.

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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