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AUS Tertiary Update Vol.4 No.16

In our lead story this week…..
AUS National President, Neville Blampied, has made it clear that in its fight for a fairer outcome for universities in this week's Budget, the association has not been calling for tuition subsidies to Private Training Establishments (PTEs) to cease. Mr Blampied says AUS simply wants the capital component of the funding – which represents around 12% of the total the PTEs receive for each equivalent full-time student – to be directed to the public sector. That would mean an extra $20m available to the public tertiary sector in 2002. He says it is unfair to the public tertiary sector – which accounts for most of the student population – that PTEs receive the same amount of capital funding as they do. "It is simply perverse that the government should allow the quality of the education available in the public tertiary sector to decline steeply, while cosseting the private sector." The message from the Minister in charge of Tertiary Education, Steve Maharey, in December 1999 was that he would review the system that saw PTEs and public institutions receive the same tuition subsidies and “put something else in place in 2001”. Instead, he says, Mr Maharey was telling a conference of the New Zealand Association of Private Education Providers in September 2000 that "…upon taking office, this Government proceeded with moves to equate PTE funding rates with those in the public sector." Labour's election manifesto for 1999 said the Government was going to "establish an agreement with tertiary institutions on fees stabilisation. The lack of such agreement has resulted in the litany of problems that we have highlighted week by week in "Tertiary Update". We are in no doubt that the number of university staff seeking greener (read better funded) pastures overseas will go on rising and recruiting problems will get worse.
And a note to watch out for our special Budget edition of "Tertiary Update" on Friday.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. AUS endorses Canterbury protest
2. Staff effort means huge savings
3. Students' stance under criticism
4. Otago Polytech job losses
5. Fewer students as population ages
6. He's resigned!
7. U21 ready to roll

The Canterbury Branch of AUS is endorsing a call by the Vice-Chancellor of Canterbury University to close down for half a day tomorrow (25 May) in protest at Government's funding offer in return for universities freezing fees to students again next year. Canterbury AUS Branch President, Maureen Montgomery says the Government seems "determined to allow the situation to deteriorate yet further and to defer any measure of financial redress until 2003" and is encouraging members to attend a rally being held outside the main Library at 1pm. In a message to staff proposing the protest, Professor Daryl Le Grew says he is taking the "unprecedented" action of closing the university because of the "precarious" situation the university is in as it faces the choice of either a deficit or further cutbacks. "The closure symbolises the impact of underfunding on the University community and stresses that there is a threshold below which we cannot work. We are at that threshold," he says.
Meanwhile, National's Education spokesperson, the MP for Ilam, Gerry Brownlee is predicting that the Canterbury action will be the first of many from tertiary institutions "spitting the dummy and saying they won't put up with the unsustainable financial position next year".

If university staff around the country felt that they'd been doing the work of at least 10 people in the recent past, an article in the current issue of New Zealand Education Review suggests they might have underestimated their contribution. The article, by AUS National President Neville Blampied, reveals that over the 1990s New Zealand universities lost 590 academic staff – enough to fill all the positions at Waikato or Canterbury. As a result the university system saved itself more than $200m during that period and students paid at least $66m less in fees. The remaining staff put in an extra 3000 person-years, or more than 7.5m. hours in additional work but, as Mr Blampied points out, there was no extra reward for that giant leap in productivity, and salaries didn't even match inflation.

The Waikato Times newspaper has taken students to task for criticising the universities and polytechnics for saying they will refuse the Government's fee freeze deal. The students are, the paper says, gunning for the closest target but not necessarily the right one. It advises them to instead back the universities and give the Government the "hard word" that if it wants to reduce student fees it needs to find a way that "doesn't involve lumping the burden on to already stressed unis and techs". And the Waikato Times supports AUS for backing the institutions. "They know that a fee freeze without decent compensation can only mean lower wages and a shoddier system."
And in Palmerston North, the Evening Standard discusses Massey Vice-Chancellor, James McWha's warning about the threat the appointment of commissioners to financially-troubled institutions would have on their autonomy. While taking his point, the Standard says that a university in financial crisis would compromise its reputation and suggests that New Zealand may already be doing this – by seeking to "more closely align what is taught at university with what the market is demanding" in an attempt to put "bums" on lecture theatre seats. What we need, the Evening Standard says, is a nation-wide strategy to tackle the root causes of universities' financial problems.

The acting Chief Executive of Otago Polytechnic has warned job losses are inevitable this year as the institution continues its restructuring. Two corporate management staff have so far lost their positions, and Mr Herd said the review team was working to shedding twenty positions altogether. In its annual report, released this week, the polytechnic said it had failed to reach its target of 3,400 full-time equivalent students, with the final figure for last year 3,169. ASTE notes that staff are about to be made redundant in Engineering and it has been indicated that the Trades areas are also under threat – another blow for the knowledge society?.


A leaked report prepared for a South Australian government education agency says student numbers in the state are likely to fall by 7000 over the next two decades as the population gets older, and birth rates decline. The report says the shrinking of the traditional 15 to 24-year-old student base could see South Australia leading the nation in an "emerging educational viability crisis" and that without a concerted strategy to deal with this fact, the state's educational institutions could face a crisis of declining enrolments that threatened their continued viability. It reportedly recommends trying to attract students from other parts of Australia, and from overseas to counteract the falling student numbers in the state.

Further to our story about from the past two weeks – the managing editor of the British Medical Journal, Richard Smith, has resigned from his part-time professor's position at the University of Nottingham in protest at the university's acceptance of a gift of $US5.5-m from British American Tobacco.

The Universitas 21 consortium expects to have a deal with the publisher Thomson Learning early next month, clearing way for the global e-university to be operating by next year. The new chair of U21, Graeme Davies of Glasgow University said more than $US20m in equity had been committed, and he was confident the $25m target would be reached. But that optimism doesn't reflect the fact that staff and student organisations continue to raise concerns over key aspects of the venture, and the deal with Thomson Media.
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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