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AUS Tertiary Update Vol.4 No.15

In our lead story this week…..
The Association of University Staff (AUS) has added its voice to the calls for the Government to act immediately to redirect part of its tuition subsidies to private training establishments (PTEs) back to the public sector. AUS National President, Neville Blampied says the Government could free up almost $20m in funding for 2002 by simply removing the capital component of tuition subsidies to PTEs. He says to do so would be "good practice", given the Government's "tight fiscal position". Citing Ministry of Education figures, Mr Blampied points out that PTE funding from tuition subsidies has risen this year by 664% on 1999, while funded student places have increased by only 130%. “This stupendous increase has come at a time when the public tertiary institutions have come under serious funding pressure," he says. Mr Blampied also dismisses as "a myth", the argument that cutting funding to PTEs would severely affect Maori and Pacific students. The vast majority of students, he says, including Maori and Pacific students, attend a public tertiary institution: "….. a Government genuinely concerned for these students would ensure that its funding policies are not damaging public institutions".

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Universities under attack says McWha
2. Anxious wait for fees deal announcement
3. 'Slack' teacher programmes dropped
4. Closer co-operation in tertiary education sector
5. Victoria launches big plagiarism investigation
6. AUS support for Wollongong critic
7. New university for Britain
8. Universitas 21 loses members
9. It's Yes!

The Vice-Chancellor of Massey University, Professor James McWha has described proposals in the Education Amendment (No.2) Bill to allow government-appointed commissioners to step in to run financially-strapped universities "foolish and dangerous". In a speech at Massey's College of Business graduation ceremony, Professor McWha warned that the political autonomy enjoyed by New Zealand universities for at least 75 years would be "destroyed" if the Bill went ahead. "I understand to some extent why the Government is doing this, because some polytechnics have got into financial difficulties," he said. "And if a university went belly up there would be some very large debts left . . . But no university has ever got into that kind of trouble and it is unlikely, with the security of their huge asset bases." The Bill is currently before a select committee.

The "Manawatu Standard", in an editorial, suggests the next couple of weeks are likely to be long ones for students – and their parents as well – as they await the May 24 Budget, and what it has to say about university fees for next year. The paper points out that while students may have welcomed a freeze in their fees, the tertiary institutions have not been so "enthralled" with the 2.3% funding increase they received in return. They fear, it says, that they may be going the same way as some of the country's cash-strapped polytechnics as they cut courses and pare back staff to make ends meet.
Meanwhile, Otago University Chancellor Eion Edgar says the university faces a difficult decision over the Government's proposed tuition fee freeze deal as financial pressures on the university grow. No one, however, is saying what the deal is – that's a secret that will only be revealed on Budget day.

The Teacher Registration Board (TRB) has withdrawn its approval for three teacher-training programmes since July last year because of slack standards, meaning that it will not register trainees from the courses. The TRB director, John Langley said one institution had since had its course reinstated, but the other two still had to meet set standards. He said the cases involved students graduating before completing their full course. The TRB is refusing to name the institutions involved, but the principal of Christchurch College of Education, Ian Hall says they should be identified. "It is intolerable that students can enrol in a course in good faith only to find that they can't get their registration," he said.

The Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE), AUS, and the Technical Institutes’ Allied Staff Association (TIASA) have agreed to create a new combined body – the Council of Unions in Tertiary Education (CUTE). Its aim is to provide a forum for discussing issues of general concern to all staff in the tertiary education sector, especially with the involvement needed under the proposed Tertiary Education Commission.

Victoria University's law school has begun interviewing students in a plagiarism investigation involving 19 second-year law students. The university's dean of law, Professor Matthew Palmer, said some of the students interviewed to date had offered good explanations as to why their research assignments were similar, and those cases wouldn't go any further. He said the investigation was evidence of the high standards at the law school.
Meanwhile, a computer programme designed by a US physics professor has reportedly triggered one of the biggest plagiarism investigations ever at the University of Virginia – with 122 students and recent graduates under suspicion. The programme scans student work for shared phrases of six words or more.

The AUS National President, Neville Blampied has written to the Chancellor of Wollongong University expressing the "serious concern" of academic staff in New Zealand at reports of the summary dismissal of Dr Ted Steele for publicly criticising the university's assessment procedures (see "Tertiary Update Vol.4 No. 13). Mr Blampied says the issue goes to the heart of academic freedom and also points to criticism that the university failed to follow due process in dismissing Dr Steele. " These are matters of extreme concern to us", he writes, "and will affect the reputation of the University in the international university community". Readers are invited to sign the NTEU on-line petition:

Britain's first new university in 20 years is to open in Cornwall offering both traditional courses in the classroom, and distance education for "life-long learning". The new institution will be called the Combined Universities of Cornwall, and is expected to begin enrolling students in 2003.

Two universities, Toronto and Michigan, have announced they are withdrawing from the planned Universitas 21 global online university, saying they are concerned about how it would use their names and their logos. Officials at Toronto University – which was a founding member of Universitas 21 in 1997 – are also said to be worried by the financial implications of the e-learning venture, which could cost as much as $US50m. to set up. Their withdrawal leaves 18 universities in ten countries still involved in the on-line university, which has signed an agreement in principle with Thomson Learning to operate the project.

And finally, a follow-up to our story in "Tertiary Update Vol.4 No. 14" – readers of the British Medical Journal have voted 54% to 45% in favour of the editor, Richard Smith quitting his teaching position at the University of Nottingham if the university does not return the $US5.5-million gift it received from British American Tobacco.

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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