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AUS Tertiary Update Vol 4 No 19

In our lead story this week…..
The Waikato University Council has voted overwhelming to reject the Government's funding offer in return for a freeze on fees -- the first institution to vote on the deal. Only two councillors voted for the offer to be accepted. Earlier, the Vice-Chancellor, Brian Gould had recommended the meeting reject the Government deal, saying Waikato lost $1.5m. when it accepted a similar deal last year. The President of the Waikato Branch of the Association of University Staff, Dr Stan Jones had earlier urged the Council not to make a decision yet, but to wait until the "unpalatable options" can be debated at a crisis summit AUS has called to discuss the funding issue.
And the Vice-Chancellor of Otago University, Dr Graeme Fogelberg has made clear that accepting the Government's fee freeze deal will put that university "on an irreversible path" to becoming a "second-class" institution. In a report to a University Council meeting this week, Dr Fogelberg said the Council's decision on funding would be "probably the most important it has ever made". A vote for the deal would mean implicitly accepting that the quality of Otago's teaching and research will be damaged permanently, while a vote against would mean future Otago graduates would have to pay more to get the education of earlier generations -- a case, he said, of "intergenerational inequity".

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
Union seeks compliance order against Massey
Call for Knowledge Society debate
Changes stressing podiatry students
Too few graduates to lure Microsoft
Knowledge Economy needs funding increase
Woollongong officials under fire
Academic human rights group founded
Ten UK universities reveal new PhD format

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has set aside 20 July for an investigative meeting in Wellington into a dispute between the union representing allied staff in polytechnics (TIASA) and Massey University. The union sought an order from the Employment Relations Authority last week to get Massey to comply with the terms of settlement of their collective agreement. TIASA says Massey had failed to make a $400 lump sum payment as agreed under the Collective Agreement negotiated in February. Massey gave assurances it would comply with the settlement by Wednesday of this week, but is disputing the entitlement of some staff to the payment.

The minister in charge of tertiary education, Steve Maharey has called for a national debate on the kind of ‘knowledge society’ that New Zealand is aiming to develop, and how tertiary education could contribute to that. In a speech to a business group in Auckland, Mr Maharey said the tertiary education system was one of the greatest resources for skills and knowledge development. He said the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission was now working on a report on possible priorities for the sector which would be a starting-point for national debate on tertiary education as well as the kind of knowledge society New Zealand should be aiming at. Mr Maharey said he believed the strategy for success lay in recognising the country's existing advantages as a biological economy. "Now we have to combine that with the innovations of biotechnology and information and communications technology," he told his audience.

Microsoft New Zealand's General Manager says the software giant could not establish a development laboratory in this country because there were not enough world-class graduates and world-class universities. In an interview with "Infotech Weekly", Geoff Lawrie said such a lab would need 20 world-class PhDs and a team of bright support staff -- something New Zealand did not have. New Zealand universities were not bad, Mr Lawrie said, but the funding model was wrong, and the focus should be on fewer, and better, learning institutions.

Victoria University's Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Mackay says an increase in funding is urgently needed if New Zealand universities are to maintain their international standing and contribute to the knowledge society. In a report on an international study tour, Professor Mackay said he was dismayed at the funding disadvantage New Zealand universities were operating under compared with U.S. universities. "Private universities, such as Stanford, have per-student funding rates up to 35 times greater than those in New Zealand," said Professor Mackay. But he says the publicly-funded universities are also ahead. He cited the University of California, Berkeley which has 8.5 times the funding per student. Professor Mackay says the top Australian universities get one-and-a-half times the funding of comparable institutions here. His remarks are endorsed by the AUS Wellington Branch president, Professor Peter Barrett. "We know it is increasingly difficult to recruit and retain expert staff and to properly support those we currently have," said Professor Barrett. "NZ Universities are living on borrowed time after a decade of chronic underfunding and the Government's budget offer fails to address this."

Podiatry students from the Central Institute of Technology are unsure whether or not they can complete their three-year course following CIT's merger with Hutt Valley Polytechnic at the end of the month. A spokesperson says they are suffering "stress and anxiety" over their future as the first semester exams approach. He said about ten CIT podiatry lecturers and six support staff had been offered a contract extension to the end of the year but appeared reluctant to accept it at this stage. The University of Otago has been considering taking over the bachelor course in podiatry but Professor Linda Holloway, who's in charge of Health Sciences, says plans are being thwarted by inadequate Ministry of Education funding.


The Vice-chancellor and Chancellor of Woollongong have been accused of trying to gag debate on the sacking of one of its senior academics, Dr Ted Steele. The criticism centred on the proceedings of a Council meeting at which Dr Steele's summary dismissal came up. Dr Steele was dismissed after he said he had been told to upgrade the marks he had awarded two of his honours students. The case has gone to the Australian Federal Court. The president of the Post-graduate Students' Association said he had been invited to speak at the meeting, but was then not given the chance to speak. The meeting was also prevented from discussing an open letter, signed by a number of prominent Australians, which took the university authorities to task for dismissing Dr Steele before proper steps had been taken to establish whether or not his comments did constitute serious misconduct.

A new group has been set up to monitor violence and repression against academics and students. The Network for Education and Academic Rights began operating this week with funding from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). It will organise global campaigns against governments abusing academic human rights, getting its information from a network of human rights organisations, professional associations and trade unions around the world. Reports will be posed on a web site It is led by John Akker, who in the 1980s was deputy general secretary of the Association of University Teachers in Britain. AUS is a foundation member.

Ten British universities are to this year offer 41 PhDs based on the Harvard model. The move follows recent surveys showing that doctoral students in the U.K. are often considered too narrow in their speciality and are suited only for narrow academic careers. See more at
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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