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AUS Tertiary Update Vol 4 No 8

In our lead story this week…..
The Association of University Staff has urged Parliament's Education and Science Select Committee to defer consideration of some sections of the Education Amendment (No.2) Bill, saying it poses the greatest threat to the distinctive role of universities since the tertiary education reforms of 1989-90. Presenting the AUS submissions to the committee, Executive Director, Rob Crozier called for parts of the Bill that allow the Minister of Education to dissolve a University Council and replace it with a Commissioner to be put aside. “The concept of having one person running a university with total responsibility for all academic matters in addition to financial is mind-boggling," he said. He pointed out that the recently-completed TEAC report, Shaping the System, is calling for a substantive review of the Education Act 1989 as it relates to tertiary education. As a result, any decisions on clauses in the of the present Bill that had the "potential for political interference in the administration of universities" should be deferred until that review had taken place.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. What the papers say on the Bill
2. Fogelberg warns of medical staffing crisis at university
3. TEAC report summary in Maori
4. Polytech payout details released
5. Canada targets education in GATS
6. Australian universities check out 'soft marking'
7. US colleges ban study in UK

The "Manawatu Evening Standard", in an editorial on the Education Amendment Bill, asks "Do our universities really have something to fear from government moves to change the law to give the state the power to intervene if institutions get into financial strife?" It is, the newspaper suggests, a tricky business balancing the historic autonomy which universities have traditionally enjoyed with their accountability as taxpayer-funded bodies. It notes that the Tertiary Education Minister and one-time Massey University academic, Steve Maharey has been quick to reassure the universities they have nothing to fear from his plans. But, the newspaper concludes – almost unbidden – images of roads and the good intentions with which they are paved spring to mind!
In its editorial on the topic, the "New Zealand Herald" takes issue with the provisions of the Bill that would allow the Minister to appoint an "observer" to the University Council if he or she considers "the operation or long-term viability of the institution is at risk." With what purpose, wonders the newspaper, given that there are already four government-appointed members of the Council? The purpose, the editorial concludes, is as a "spy" since the observer "may report to the minister on any matter raised or discussed at any meeting." The observer then would work for the minister, whereas the minister's appointees to the council owe prior allegiance to the university. The "Herald" also takes issue with the provision allowing the minister to appoint a commissioner to replace the council, suggesting "an insidious centralisation of power" that is taking place in public health and education is now spreading to the tertiary sector. The editorial's conclusion:"…there is no justification for the government to interfere. It must be stopped." We couldn't have put it better.

The Vice-Chancellor of Otago University, Dr Graeme Fogelberg has written to the Minister of Health, Hon. Annette King, warning that the disparities between university-level pay and hospital rates have been causing a recruitment and retention "crisis" at the university. He told the university's finance and budget committee he understood "top flight" Auckland hospital pathologists were paid about $260,000, whereas the combined payment a university pathologist could expect was about $100,000 below that. He said this explained why there had been delays in appointing a replacement pathology professor at its Christchurch School of Medicine. University salaries had failed to keep pace with other sectors over the past five years, and the weak state of the dollar also posed problems for overseas recruitment. He indicated that medicine was not the only discipline facing recruitment problems. Two attempts to fill the post of the Donald Collie Professor of English had failed. Meanwhile, Dr Fogelberg and the Chair of the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors' Committee, Professor James McWha, are seeking a meeting with senior government ministers to discuss the funding problems, but as yet no date has been set for the meeting. “Tertiary Update” is pleased that the Vice-Chancellor has finally recognised the problem and seems intent on doing something about it. AUS has been raising this problem for many years and, in the last 3 years in particular, has identified a potential crisis in medical teaching and research in our medical schools.

The summary of the "Shaping the System" report has now been issued in the Maori language. It can be viewed at

It has been revealed that Aoraki Polytechnic paid former naturopathy students $515,000 in settlement of a dispute over the standing of their course. Thirty-six students took a case against the Polytechnic in 1999 after the New Zealand Qualifications Authority rejected the course on all but two of the 19 criteria. The students said they had been led to believe they would receive a Bachelor of Applied Science in naturopathy at the end of their three years of study. Details of the previously secret settlement were made public after an investigation by the Chief Ombudsman. Incidentally, AUS actively campaigned at the time against naturopathy being taught as an Applied Science degree.

The Canadian government has given notice that it will aggressively promote the export of educational services in the upcoming negotiations under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The Trade Minister, Pierre Pettigrew said the government would "work hard to increase export opportunities for Canadian health and educational services", while at the same time protecting its domestic public services from access by foreign firms. The President of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), Tom Booth suggests the government is "naïve" to think it can win access to foreign education markets while keeping up barriers to its own education market.

Australian universities have begun checks on 'soft marking' after concerns were raised by the Senate inquiry into public universities which began hearings last week. New South Wales and Curtin Universities have set up formal inquiries to see if the fears that inappropriate high marks are being given, or existing marks are being upgraded without adequate grounds, have substance. Deakin and Wollongong have begun informal checks through deans, and vice-chancellors at Murdoch, Sydney and New England have called for anyone with information about soft marking to come forward. To date they have had no response.

The outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Europe has upset study-abroad programmes for students at several American universities. Michigan State University has cancelled a summer programme in the UK and Ireland for 30 agriculture students and faculty. It has also recalled a student who was on an exchange to the Greenmount College of Agriculture and Horticulture in Northern Ireland – where the disease was detected among campus animals. Purdue University has cancelled two of its students' summer farm stays in Ireland and the University of Wisconsin has begun to limit foreign visitors to its College of Agriculture, turning away a group of 50 German farmers.
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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