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AUS Tertiary Update Vol 4 No 21

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AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 4 No. 21, 28 June 2001
In our lead story this week…..
Lincoln University is losing a high-profile member of its staff to the University of Queensland. Professor Peter Earl, who was educated at Cambridge and has published 14 books on economics, came to Lincoln 10 years ago, but says the things that attracted him are no longer enough to keep him here. Canterbury's climate and outdoor lifestyle were the drawcard, but he says they no longer compensate for his frustration with his salary, his workload and the lack of resources. He is also concerned at the direction university education is taking in New Zealand. He says universities are becoming training centres rather than educational centres. He is taking a less senior position at the University of Queensland, but says it will not mean a drop in salary. A mid-range academic there earns as much as a senior academic does here, and Professor Earl says superannuation and other considerations are also much more generous. He says that while he can see the mountains from the university, he can no longer enjoy them and the stress levels of the job make it hard to "switch off". Professor Earl has also expressed concern at the standard of literacy in New Zealand universities. He says the top 10% of his students are on a par with any in the world, but the level of literacy of the other 90% has "shocked him".

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
Course approval not to be delegated
CIT staff get grim news
Collective agreement concluded for Polytechs
New honour for VUW scientist
New Member Appointed To Tertiary Commission
Australian states seed own research
U.K. staff vote for pay offer

The New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee has decided against transferring the approval processes carried out by the Committee on University Academic Programmes to the universities themselves. The decision follows opposition to the idea from the sector. However, the proposal has not been shelved completely and will be looked at again after the Tertiary Education Commission is established and the review of the New Zealand Universities’ Academic Audit Unit has been completed.

Staff taking podiatry and dental technicians' courses at the former Central Institute of Technology in the Hutt Valley are "devastated" by the news that the podiatry course will move to Auckland and the dental technicians' diploma will be scrapped in favour of Otago's degree programme. The National President of the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE), Jill Ovens, says podiatry staff had made it clear they wanted the course to remain in Wellington as part of the Otago School of Medicine campus in Newtown. But Ms Ovens says education officials are now saying Otago is complaining that there is not enough room on the campus for the course. Ms Ovens says the move to Auckland will be disruptive to the staff and their families, as well as to students.The ASTE President says the decision to scrap the dental technicians' course has also come as a blow, since lecturers had the backing of their profession to seek another polytechnic to take it over. She says the course had been going for 25 years and had a good record for producing successful graduates who met the needs of the profession. The course had suffered a drop in students in the past two years, but Ms Ovens said that was due to a lack of confidence in CIT as an institution rather than any concerns about the course itself.

Four of the country's polytechnics have agreed to a basic employment contract to cover their staff. The multi-employer collective agreement follows three days of negotiations between ASTE and the Eastern Institute of Technology, Northland Polytechnic, Tairawhiti Polytechnic and the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT). ASTE’s National Vice-President, Lloyd Woods, says the agreement represents significant progress. Having agreed on a basic document, the negotiators are now moving on to discuss the substantive issues, which include salaries. Mr Woods says, however, these negotiations will be constrained by the unhealthy financial state of three of the four polytechnics involved. A round of members’ meetings is being held to report back on progress so far with the first being held at NMIT.
Meanwhile, ASTE National President, Jill Ovens says the financial situation of polytechnics is being complicated by the Government's failure to provide funding that enables regional polytechnics in particular to meet local demands. On the polytechnics' part, she says, the Government's fee-freeze offer is being used as an excuse to hold down staff salaries.

Victoria University of Wellington scientist and AUS Branch President, Professor Peter Barrett, has won further international recognition for his contribution to Antarctic research. He has received the Felice Ippolito International Prize which is awarded to an Italian or foreign scientist who has contributed significantly to the development of Antarctic research. Professor Barrett has been chief scientist on the Cape Roberts Project, which is using ice core samples to provide information of the tectonic and climate history of Antarctica.

The Chief Executive of the Open Polytechnic, Shona Butterfield has been appointed to the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission (TEAC). She replaces the Chief Executive of Hutt Valley Polytechnic, Linda Sissons who is standing down because of work pressures associated with the formation of the new Wellington Institute of Technology.


With the Federal Government and the Opposition fighting to snatch the innovation/knowledge agenda, Australian states have begun putting money into research on their own initiative as they jockey for position in the drive towards the knowledge economy. The Victorian Government has announced it will put up $100 million of the $157m needed for the country's first synchrotron at Monash University. In Queensland, the state government is to put $20m towards a new $60m centre to develop new nano applications and biomaterials. The state contributions are expected to help persuade other investors to put up millions more for research.

Academic staff in the U.K. have voted overwhelmingly to accept a 5.1% pay offer. The offer includes the reform of the way university pay is negotiated. This will see a new joint negotiating committee set up for the sector as a whole, as suggested in the recent Bett Report on Higher Education Pay and Conditions. A single pay scale will also be established. The 100 million pounds in additional funding for the U.K higher education sector, 2001-02, includes 50 million pounds for universities to address issues of pay and recruitment. The Association of University Teachers' General Secretary, David Triesman, welcomed the boost to lecturers' salaries, but said the longer-term problem of under-investment in the profession still had to be tackled, adding that: I hope the new government will continue to invest in higher education and, in particular, reward the great achievements in quality and standards made by university lecturers and staff. It has always been our belief that world class higher education can only be achieved through investment in world class teaching and support. New Zealand university staff echo such sentiments.

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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