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AUS Tertiary Update Vol 4 No 13

In our lead story this week…..
NZVCC acknowledges staffing problems
The New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee says New Zealand universities would need to appoint an extra 590 full-time academic staff if they were to achieve a staff to student ratio on a par with Australia and the United Kingdom. In its annual report released this week, the NZVCC says the current ratio of academic staff to students stands at 1 staff member for every 19 students -- comparing unfavourably with those countries. The report also acknowledges that New Zealand academic staff are “poorly paid and poorly supported in terms of research infrastructure and funding” and that this results in “a steady drain of top researchers and difficulty in recruiting the best young talent.” This echoes the arguments AUS has been making for some time now. To date, the only response has seen staff rewarded, not with better pay and conditions, but with increased workloads and salaries that have fallen far behind international levels. We hope for a more sympathetic ear in future salary negotiations!

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. CRIs and universities to get together?
2. Wanganui Polytechnic's future under the microscope
3. Beating the skills shortage
4. Massey targets China
5. Australian whistleblower dismissed
6. California salaries still lag
7. Australia debates corporate sponsorship

In what may be a signal for future co-operation between universities and Crown Research Institutes, it's been announced that Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS) may move to Victoria University's campus and be renamed as the Institute of Geological Sciences. Victoria says this would create a nationwide centre of excellence in earth sciences -- although readers of "Tertiary Update" (Vol. 3 No.32) will recall that the university was last year making cuts to its own School of Earth Sciences. We understand that if the Victoria merger goes ahead, GNS vulcanologists could then be attached to Auckland University.

The government is to appoint a working party to explore the future for Wanganui Regional Community Polytechnic (WRCP). The move follows talks between the Minister in charge of Tertiary education, Steve Maharey and community leaders. The working party will include representatives from the Crown, staff and students, the WRCP Council and management, Wanganui District Council and the Tribal Governance Group. The community, employers and business will also be represented. The working party will explore a proposal to re-establish WRCP as a joint-venture entity. It has also been charged with drawing up a business plan for the venture by the end of July. Meanwhile, Mr Maharey has assured students and staff that the Government will continue to support the Polytechnic until a long term solution is put in place.

The President of the Waikato Chamber of Commerce is suggesting fees relief for certain tertiary students as "a good start" in getting around what he calls "the dearth of good people" to fill positions in the workforce. In an opinion piece in the Waikato Times, Steven Saunders says industry training schemes are not meeting the needs of business, while universities are not producing graduates with the right skills. The country, he says, needs "only so many social scientists, lawyers, marketing graduates or gender studies experts". Mr Saunders says we should not be influenced by critics of "fees breaks" who say they are "unfair" or "inequitable". "What we are doing at present is not working," he says. " As the saying goes – 'the first sign of insanity is to do the same thing this year as last year and expect a different result'". His conclusion? "It is time to change."

Massey University says a deal it has struck with a Chinese education provider could see a big increase in students from China at its Palmerston North campus. Under the agreement between Massey's College of Business and NetBig Education Holdings, a pilot group of 20 to 30 students will begin the second year of the college's Bachelor of Business Studies programme. The student numbers will increase to 150 next February and 500 in February 2003. The College of Business academic director, Associate Professor Bruce Wilson calls the deal "good news" for both the city and the university, and says that as many as 50 new academic positions could be created as a result. Netbig is described as one of the fastest growing educational enterprises in China, providing on-line degree programmes in association with universities in China. It also hosts a website currently used by more than 85,000 Chinese schools.


The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) in Australia is suing the University of Wollongong over the dismissal of an academic staff member on charges of serious misconduct. Dr Ted Steele was dismissed after he made public statements criticising the assessment procedures within his department. He refused to withdraw his comments when their veracity was challenged. The Vice-Chancellor of Wollongong is arguing that Dr Steele's comments brought the university into disrepute and constituted serious misconduct meriting instant dismissal. But the NTEU says the agreed procedures for investigating allegations of serious misconduct were ignored in this case. It also says Dr Steele's had every right to make his comments under the principles of academic freedom. The National President of the NTEU, Dr Carolyn Allport is asking for international support for its campaign against Wollongong University. The union is inviting signatures for its on-line petition at The NTEU is also suggesting supporters write directly to the Chancellor, Mr M. Codd, with a copy to the Vice-Chancellor Professor Gerard Sutton. The address is: University of Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia.

A report on academic salaries in California's public universities shows they still lag behind their counterparts in the private sector, but have gained ground since the economic recession of the early to mid-1990s. The latest Faculty Salary Comparison report issued by the California Post-secondary Education Commission shows the parity gap at the University of California for 2000-2001 to be 3%, with a projected lag for the current year of 3.9%. The gap at California State University is higher -- 8.9% for the 2000 year, dropping to 7.9% for the 2001-02 year. Public university salaries in California were hard hit by the severe economic recession between 1991 and 1995, when the gap between them and the comparison groups reached its highest level since the inflation years of the 1970s and early 1980s.

A hearing by the Australian Senate has been told that universities are compromising their public service mission by accepting funding from corporates. William De Maria of the University of Queensland's Centre for Public Administration told senators that many faculty members were now too scared to speak out on controversial issues for fear of losing crucial support. His concerns are echoed by the NTEU, which fears business sponsorship is dictating the sort of research undertaken, as well as controlling the results and the conditions under which those are published. Proponents of corporate sponsorship deny it hinders academic freedom and say it helps keep young scientists in Australia. But the NTEU's research officer, Simon Kent says researchers would be in a better position to negotiate with corporations if they were not so desperate for money.

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: Direct enquiries to Rob Crozier, AUS Executive Director. Email:

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