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AUS Tertiary Update Vol.4 No.18

In our lead story this week…..
The AUS President, Neville Blampied has written to all Labour and Alliance MPs pointing out the resentment felt by universities at what they see as Government coercion in getting them to accept its fee-freeze deal. In his letter, Mr Blampied criticises the Government for making it clear that only institutions that accept the fees-freeze will be eligible to draw on a new fund set up to finance the establishment of Centres of Research Excellence. He sees "no principled basis" for linking the two and says it is severe coercion at the least. Mr Blampied says the action falls well short of the standards expected of a social democratic Labour-Alliance Government and suggests the fact that the Government has had to resort to this action shows how little confidence it has in the adequacy of its fees stabilisation offer. He is appealing to the MPs to try to reverse the decision in caucus.
Meanwhile, Canterbury University's official magazine, "Chronicle" says those who are calling the Government's Budget funding deal 'blackmail' are "not too far wide of the mark". In an editorial, the editor, Paul Gorman, criticises the funding offered in return for a fees freeze as "paltry" and says the penalties universities face if they turn it down are "nasty".

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Pay equity stalled
2. Loan scheme 'out of control'
3. Tertiary libraries feel the pinch
4. Visit premature
5. Proposal could see tests for bedside manner
6. Future of U21 in doubt
7. Canadian students get less for more

A new study has found that pay equity has effectively stalled despite the fact that more women are now better educated. The paper – which was co-authored by the Alliance MP, Dr Liz Gordon and Missy Morton – shows that pay rates for women in the private sector last year stood at 82% of those for men, while the figure for the public sector was 80%. Moreover, the public sector figures showed a widening in the pay gap since 1990, when women's hourly wage rates stood at 83% of men's rates. Dr Gordon points out that this is happening at a time when women are graduating from universities in greater numbers, and with better qualifications than men. "Men underachieve relatively in education, but they overachieve in the job market," Dr Gordon told the conference. The researchers found the gap was bigger in some government departments than others. In January this year, the average salary for Treasury's 134 permanent female staff was $62,038 while the average income for its 171 male staff was $95,327 – a pay gap based on gender of 65%. Dr Gordon says the findings underline the need for pay equity legislation.

University student leaders say figures just released show how out of control the student loan scheme has become. Figures released to the New Zealand University Students' Association (NZUSA) under the official information act show that the biggest student loan is now $167,000 – $27,000 more than the highest one last year. NZUSA co-president, Andrew Campbell says the figures show the Government needs to do more than "simply tinker" with the loan interest rate. "The two primary causes of student loan debt are the lack of a living allowance for most students and high tuition fees," he says. "The government needs to address these two issues if it is truly committed to making inroads into the student debt problem." Mr Campbell also calls on universities to "mitigate" the snowballing effect of the loans scheme by accepting the Government's fee-freeze deal for 2002.

Librarians have warned that university and polytechnic libraries face a lean year as the Government's 2.6% (effectively 1.8%) funding offer follows on from three years of falling exchange rates. Libraries import more than 98% of their materials, and the Chair of the University Librarians' Council, Sue Pharo says they have been struggling to make ends meet over the past three years as the New Zealand dollar fell 24.5% against the U.S. dollar and 12.5% against the British pound. She says the situation has been made worse by rises of between 8% and 12% a year in publishers' prices. The result is that libraries have seen their costs rise up to 30% in a three-year period. The result, Ms Pharo says is that several libraries have had to consider cutting what they buy rather than purchasing what is best for the library.

A typographical error is being blamed for an error in the Deputy Prime Minister, Jim Anderton's itinerary that would have seen him visit the country's newest – but as yet non-existent – tertiary education institution. A draft itinerary for Mr Anderton's visit, tabled at a Taupo council meeting, had him visiting the site of Lake Taupo University College. But with discussions still underway on purchasing land, it's clear there will be no site visit. Instead, Taupo officials say they will hold a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister.

The Otago Medical School is currently seeking public comment on the future of medical training. A discussion document has been produced that looks at future options for the selection and training of doctors, including introducing psychological testing into the selection process to ensure that students have the qualities needed to be a doctor. It also suggests less emphasis on academic grades. The author of the document, Dean of the Dunedin School of Medicine, Professor Bill Gillespie, says an overseas study has determined that modern doctors need a mix of skills, including clinical, advocacy, communications and managerial expertise. As a result, grades were less important: "We believe anybody with B+ or better can cope with medical courses", he says.

With the deadline approaching, only a minority of Universitas 21 universities have committed funding towards its online teaching institution, raising questions over whether the venture can proceed. The consortium universities must come up with $US25m for the project within two weeks under an agreement with its venture partner, Thomson Learning. But to date only five of the 16 have committed themselves. They are the universities of Glasgow, Melbourne, New South Wales, Nottingham and Queensland. Auckland University has said it supports the online university but is waiting on further details before specifying how much it will put towards it. One other university says its rules do not allow it to contribute financially, and Edinburgh University says it is reconsidering its role. Earlier, Toronto and Michigan universities said they would not back the venture, with Toronto withdrawing from the consortium altogether. Meanwhile, a U.S. company specialising in Internet business courses has filed for bankruptcy after failing to attract enough business. Pensare worked with Duke University and other institutions offering business courses to corporations.

Canadian students may be paying more in fees, but research suggests that they may not be getting a better education as a result. A report released by the Canadian Association of University Teachers says fees rose 64% during the 1990s in response to a 25% drop in public operating grants. Over the same period, it says, university expenditure on salaries has fallen 16% – meaning the students are getting less for their money. The study says rises in fees have worsened inequality of opportunity for a tertiary education. It shows that at the beginning of the 1990s, families on the lowest income would need to set aside 14% of their disposable income to cover these costs. By the end of the decade that figure had risen to 23%. The rise for Canada's richest families was from 3% to 4%. The report calls for increased operating grants and grants for economically disadvantaged students.
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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