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BUDGET 2001 – GOOD, BAD AND UGLY FOR UNIVERSITIES

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Speaking in Wellington today after the presentation of the Government’s 2001 Budget, Association of University Staff (AUS) National President, Neville Blampied, said that “there are some positive features of the Budget for universities, but these are overshadowed by the inadequate funding provided for the sector in the fees stabilisation deal”.

Speaking of the good, Neville Blampied said that the AUS particularly welcomed the extension of the Ombudsman’s office to cover complaints from students. “This establishes a respected, and independent mechanism for resolving complaints about Universities. We support this development.”

He added that AUS also welcomed the confirmation that the Tertiary Education Commission would be set up, although there is little detail yet of its powers and responsibilities. Neville Blampied also praised the innovation of establishing Tertiary Teaching Awards. “These prestigious and valuable awards (four annually, each worth $50,000) will go someway to recognising the high quality of teaching in the tertiary sector which currently goes largely unrecognised and unrewarded. AUS looks forwards to being involved in the process of setting up and administering these awards,” he said.

Neville Blampied also commented that “In a Budget in which references to knowledge and innovation are relatively sparse, university staff commend the Government for increasing the Marsden Fund for excellent research by $2M, although it is regrettable that the overall increase in research and development funding overall is a modest $11.6M”

“Against these positive initiatives, must be set the bad features of the fees stabilisation proposal, and the ugliness of the coercive tactics being used to induce institutions to accept it. The extra money being put up by the Government to compensate universities for holding fees at 2000 levels is woefully inadequate, and at $36.9M is less than the annual contribution of more than $40M made by staff accepting the higher workloads imposed since 1999. The meagre level of the government’s offer will make it impossible for any institution that accepts the offer to maintain the quality of the education it provides, and NZ universities will put their international reputations at risk.”

“The Government itself clearly recognises that its offer is inadequate. That is why they have resorted to the deplorably coercive tactic of linking acceptance of the fees stabilisation deal with access to the Centres of Research Excellence funding,” said Neville Blampied.

“There is no principled reason why Centres of Research Excellence should be linked to fees in this way, and it is clear the Government feared that the merits of the stabilisation offer alone would not induce universities to accept it. We think that this is a tactic of which the Government should be ashamed, and AUS calls on the Ministers involved to break the link between these two line items.

Making progress on the foundations of the knowledge society and innovation economy should not be subject to petty politics,” he said.

Contact: Neville Blampied 021 680 475

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